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Dev Psychol. 2002 Mar;38(2):313-26.

Strategic attention deployment for delay of gratification in working and waiting situations.

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Department of Psychology, Smith College Northampton, Massachussetts 01063, USA.


Two studies examined whether the detrimental effects of attention to rewards on delay of gratification in waiting situations holds-or reverses-in working situations. In Study 1, preschoolers waited or worked for desired delayed rewards. Delay times increased when children worked in the presence of rewards but, as predicted, this increase was due to the distraction provided by the work itself. not because attention to rewards motivated children to sustain work. Analysis of spontaneous attention deployment showed that attending to rewards reduces delay time regardless of the working or waiting nature of the task. Fixing attention on rewards was a particularly detrimental strategy regardless of the type of task. Study 2 showed that when the work is not engaging, however, attention to rewards can motivate instrumental work and facilitate delay of gratification as long as attention deployment does not become fixed on the rewards.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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