Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"Delayed gratification" is an ILL-Defined Concept

The article claims that today's children have shown more self control.

I question the abstract settings of that kind of experiments, the generality and the direction of the conclusions.


The setting is ill-defined, the concept of "delayed gratification" itself, too, especially for little children. Too general conclusions. The experimenters assume that the children believe that two candies later are "a bigger gratification" than one. Why should the child do? Why not a child be satisfied with just ONE now and then go do something else, seek for another, different, more meaningful and interesting gratification - such as play? If it's satisfied anyway, why should her wait?

"A higher salary is better" - is it, at what other cost; are the money (or the number of candies) the only unquestionable "gratification" measure.

What if the children didn't understand the question like the experimenter has defined it? What if they waited more, because they were more suggestive and obedient to do what they were told. (It's true that the "schooling" from an earlier age contributes to developing in that direction.)

...Or because they have other rewards, such as "video drugs" and care less about that candy. Or because they could get a candy anyway afterwards and they are not attracted.

Also are those two candies (eaten at once) a bigger gratification? In practice they would be eaten for about the same time - do the little children count that? (If they saved it for another day, that would be a "delayed gratification").

Do the children understand "more" the same way and also *do they believed, that the waiting costs less*, and when they wait, *do they wait because they like more to please the authority figure who gives them the task*?

One thing that the test measures is some "patience", assuming that it's by-definition suffered for "gratification", and namely for the eating of the candy itself.

The article mentions "not on medication for ADHD" and "attention", but I think that's ill-defined too, because the children who don't want to wait for *a candy* may do wait for something else *about which they do care* more and is of a "value" for them, i.e. I don't think the conclusions are transferable by default, *especially* since the child are young and probably do not always generalise themselves.

"Delaying gratification" for a setting of a subjectively accepted higher reward could be interpreted as more "GREED" and for the case of little a few-years-old children: a higher susceptibility to please the authority figure or to answer what she assumed she was expected to say.

Also I suspect that some of the children do not understand all of the conditions of what they were asked to do.


It is true that waiting as Patience and "sustained focus" is correlated to "higher IQ" and other test results in *some tests* - studying and "success" require patience.

It is true also, that pleasing the authority figures in human societies usually leads to "success" in the measures and values, defined by those authority figures.

However patience and "delayed gratification" are correlated also with less ability to contradict the order of the authority figure, which is correlated to less inclination towards critical thinking and creativity under authority pressure.

The rewards for those "delayed gratification" ones is to a bigger extend defined by their authorities and these children may have have accepted and adopted more deeply the values of their "experimenters" and are delaying gratification", they question less the truth of the values they have.

Similarly, some of the children who according to their experimenters "lacked self-control" (based on the experimenters definition), may actually have *REJECTED* or ignored the external control, imposed by the experimenter/teacher and thus they did what they wanted, instead of what they were supposed to do according to the experimenter's values and "gratification criteria" etc.

(I may have encountered similar thoughts in the past).