Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants. This ability is usually considered to be a personality trait which is important for life success. People who lack this trait are said to need instant gratification and may suffer from poor impulse control.

Michael Mischel conducted experiment in 1960’s with a group of children 5 – 8 years old to explain the how important self control to success. He tested 10 – 15 children one after the other. The test began by offering one cake with one condition i.e. later they may get another cake if they wait till he return back. He left for approximately 15 minutes. In the gap many children played with cake, few people ate it before he came.

Fourteen years later, the simple study demonstrated the significant differences between the two groups of children. The children who delayed gratification and waited until Michael Mischel return were more positive, persistent when faced with life difficulties, more self motivated and were able to delay immediate gratification in order to pursue their longer term goals.


The children who chose 1 cake didn’t fare as well. They were more indecisive, mistrustful of others, less self confident and often more troubled in general. They were more obviously unable to delay immediate gratification.

Comparing the SAT scores of the 1 cake students to the 2 cake students showed that students that chose 1 cake scored an average of 210 points lower than the 2 cake students. Why? 2 cake students are able to sacrifice immediate activity in the interest of more focused study time for a longer term benefit. The one cake students were far more impulsive resulting in higher distraction and less focus on their school work.

This article explains the two important traits delay gratification and impulse control. These traits are very important for success. People who invest in delayed gratification associate hard work with high rewards. In simple words, delayed gratification is the highway to real success.

Note: In the original list marshmallows were used. For easy understanding for Indian audiences here cake is taken instead of marshmallow.


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1 comment on “Delayed Gratification”


  1. Khageswar Rao K says:

    The article is a great guideline to one regardless of age, gender, qualification, social distinction and such other attributes, if any.

    It is a test of one’s poise. To many people, the attribute may seem fooling self. In the long run, however, brings in rich dividends.

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