Trying to determine how wealthy one person may become in the future is a complicated equation.Eeducation and occupation are obvious factors. However a study published recently in Frontiers in Psychology, has found that a persons ability to delay instant gratification is a more important determinant of higher income than originally thought.
The ability to delay instant satisfaction as a behavioural strength, first came to the public’s attention after the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment. In this experiment children had to choose between one marshmallow provided immediately or two marshmallows if they waited for 15 minutes. It wasn’t until years later when information from this and other similar studies revealed that the people that were able to delay instant gratification had considerably higher earning potential.
Dr. William Hampton explains: “Our study was the first to create a validated rank ordering of these factors (age, education, geography, gender, race, height, age, delay discounting) using machine learning. Our results were interesting because when we compared the importance of these factors we found that how much a person discounts the value of future rewards compared to immediate ones (known as delay discounting) is more predictive of income than some other ‘big’ variables such as age, ethnicity, and race.”
While we can not alter our age or height, it is under debate as to whether we can improve our ability to delay gratification. So next time you go to grab the last piece of chocolate cake or go to pour yourself a glass of wine, just wait five minutes, you might be making yourself richer in the process!
One age bracket that can learn is children. If you have kids of your own, you might want to conduct your own marshmallow experiment. Teaching children that delaying instant gratification can garner them higher rewards will enable them to have more control over their own lives going forward. Ultimately bringing them more success!
One interesting observation that has come out of delayed gratification studies is that your willingness to delay gratification reflects, to a large extent, how trusting you are of authority figures. If you have had bad experiences with authority, you are more likely to take the reward now, and devalue a promise of a reward later.
What seems like impulsiveness can in fact be perfectly rational for someone who subconsciously anticipates to be screwed over.
For this study, that would mean that people whose upbringings lead them to trust in authority tend to have higher income, which makes sense. This hints at the importance of trust in early childhood, and perhaps even the relationship children have with their first teachers.
What are your thoughts on these findings? please share your hypothesis in the comment section below.