Understanding time concept to help delay gratification in young children
University of Kansas
Psychology & Research in Education
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Delay of gratification (DG) is the ability to resist the temptation for a smaller but immediate reward in order to get a larger and more desirable delayed reward. Many factors involved in delay of gratification have been well explored, however, the importance of time perception contributing to delay of gratification has not yet been well established. Given that the waiting period during the DG task is a central aspect of the deferred reward, individual differences in time perception may cause different decisions in delay of gratification. The purpose of the study was to research how a scaffolded approach to waiting with auditory and visual cues in determining the passage of time could help children delay gratification. Research sample was a convenience sample from a day care in China. Forty-five Chinese four- to five-year-old children, consisting of twenty-one females and twenty-four males, were randomly divided into three groups with equivalent gender ratio. Each child was asked to perform under one of three conditions. In the first condition, fourteen children were asked to wait for ten minutes to get the preferred reward with an auditory cue (i.e., record of verbal counting of seconds and minutes). In the second condition, fourteen children were asked to wait for ten minutes to get the preferred reward with a visual cue (i.e., a digital timer). In the third condition, thirteen children were asked to wait for ten minutes to get the preferred reward without any form of external cue. The length of time each child in each group could wait was measured at the end of this quasi experimental study. Group descriptive statistics comparisons were made. Mean wait time comparisons were made across all three groups. It was predicted that an increase in accuracy of time perception with visual and auditory cues (i.e., scaffolds) could help young children to delay gratification than the no-treatment group. No prediction was made in reference to the auditory versus the visual cue groups since not enough prior research had been conducted to make such a prediction which makes this research all the more important. A pilot study was conducted to evaluate feasibility and potential challenges to internal validity on conducting the proposed study. Limitation of this study was that it was being conducted with a small sample size. The sample was not random and it was a convenience sample with random assignment to groups, but matched on sex. This study may give some implications for the emphasis on time perception in future DG studies, as well as offering new strategies regarding use of time perception education in improving impulse control in young children. Discussion of implications for DG in Chinese sample of young children were shared.
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