Gratification, like all emotions, is a motivator of behavior and thus plays a role in the entire range of human social systems.
Instant and delayed gratification
The term instant gratification is often used to label the satisfactions gained by more impulsive behaviors: choosing now over tomorrow. The skill of giving preference to long-term goals over more immediate ones is known as deferred gratification or patience, and it is usually considered a virtue, producing rewards in the long term.
Walter Mischel developed the well-known marshmallow experiment to test gratification patterns in four-year-olds, offering one marshmallow now or two after a delay. He discovered in long-term follow-up that the ability to resist eating the marshmallow immediately was a good predictor of success in later life. However, Tyler W. Watts, Greg J. Duncan, and Haonan Quan, published Revisiting the Marshmallow Test: A Conceptual Replication Investigating Links Between Early Delay of Gratification and Later Outcomes debunking the original marshmallow experiment. Concluding that "This bivariate correlation was only half the size of those reported in the original studies and was reduced by two thirds in the presence of controls for family background, early cognitive ability, and the home environment. Most of the variation in adolescent achievement came from being able to wait at least 20 s. Associations between delay time and measures of behavioral outcomes at age 15 were much smaller and rarely statistically significant."
While one might say that those who lack the skill to delay are immature, an excess of this skill can create problems as well; i.e. an individual becomes inflexible, or unable to take pleasure in life (anhedonia) and seize opportunities for fear of adverse consequences.
Gratification is a major issue in bipolar disorder. One sign of the onset of depression is a spreading loss of the sense of gratification in such immediate things as friendship, jokes, conversation, food and sex. Long-term gratification seems even more meaningless.
- R. F. Baumeister/B. J. Bushman, Social Psychology and Human Nature (2010) p. 49
- Baumeister, p. 120
- Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (1996) p. 79-80
- Tyler W. Watts, Greg J. Duncan, Haunan Quan, Sage Journals (2018) https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618761661
- Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (1970) p. 151
- Frank Munger, Labouring Below the Line (2007) p. 274
- James Holland, The Battle of Britain (2010) p. 735-9
- Aaron T. Beck/Brad A. Alford, Depression (2009) p. 19
- Beck, p. 28
- Beck, p. 96
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- "The Economics of Immediate Gratification" (PDF). - An academic paper treating gratification and self-control problems