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J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2011;40(2):307-17. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2011.546040.

Why superman can wait: cognitive self-transformation in the delay of gratification paradigm.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel 69978.


We examined middle-class Israeli preschoolers' cognitive self-transformation in the delay of gratification paradigm. In Study 1, 66 un-caped or Superman-caped preschoolers delayed gratification, half with instructions regarding Superman's delay-relevant qualities. Caped children delayed longer, especially when instructed regarding Superman's qualities. In Study 2 with 43 preschoolers, with the respective relevant superhero qualities emphasized (i.e., patient vs. impulsive), Superman-caped children tended to delay longer than Dash-caped children. In Study 3, 48 preschoolers delayed gratification after being instructed to pretend to be Superman or a child with the same patient qualities, or after watching a video of Superman, with or without pretend instructions. Invoking Superman led to longer delays and instructions regarding Superman's qualities tended to lead to longer delays than watching the Superman video. In accounting for the data, we differentiated cognitive transformations of the reward's consummatory value and cognitive transformations as basic intellectual processes.

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