Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later

Edited by Michael Posner, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, and approved July 26, 2011 (received for review May 27, 2011)
September 1, 2011
108 (36) 14998-15003
Commentary
The value of control and the influence of values
Stephanie M. Carlson, Philip David Zelazo

Abstract

We examined the neural basis of self-regulation in individuals from a cohort of preschoolers who performed the delay-of-gratification task 4 decades ago. Nearly 60 individuals, now in their mid-forties, were tested on “hot” and “cool” versions of a go/nogo task to assess whether delay of gratification in childhood predicts impulse control abilities and sensitivity to alluring cues (happy faces). Individuals who were less able to delay gratification in preschool and consistently showed low self-control abilities in their twenties and thirties performed more poorly than did high delayers when having to suppress a response to a happy face but not to a neutral or fearful face. This finding suggests that sensitivity to environmental hot cues plays a significant role in individuals’ ability to suppress actions toward such stimuli. A subset of these participants (n = 26) underwent functional imaging for the first time to test for biased recruitment of frontostriatal circuitry when required to suppress responses to alluring cues. Whereas the prefrontal cortex differentiated between nogo and go trials to a greater extent in high delayers, the ventral striatum showed exaggerated recruitment in low delayers. Thus, resistance to temptation as measured originally by the delay-of-gratification task is a relatively stable individual difference that predicts reliable biases in frontostriatal circuitries that integrate motivational and control processes.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health Grants R01 DA018879 (to B.J.C.), R01 HD069178 (to B.J.C. and W.M.), and by National Science Foundation Grant 06-509 (to Y.S.).

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 108 | No. 36
September 6, 2011
PubMed: 21876169

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: September 1, 2011
Published in issue: September 6, 2011

Keywords

  1. reward
  2. behavioral suppression
  3. functional MRI
  4. inferior frontal gyrus
  5. longitudinal

Acknowledgments

This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health Grants R01 DA018879 (to B.J.C.), R01 HD069178 (to B.J.C. and W.M.), and by National Science Foundation Grant 06-509 (to Y.S.).

Notes

*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.

Authors

Affiliations

Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065;
Leah H. Somerville
Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065;
Ian H. Gotlib
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305;
Ozlem Ayduk
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;
Nicholas T. Franklin
Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065;
Mary K. Askren
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;
John Jonides
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;
Marc G. Berman
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109;
Nicole L. Wilson
Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195;
Theresa Teslovich
Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065;
Gary Glover
Lucas Imaging Center, Department of Radiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305;
Vivian Zayas
Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; and
Walter Mischel1 [email protected]
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027
Yuichi Shoda1 [email protected]
Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195;

Notes

1
To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected].
Author contributions: B.J.C., O.A., J.J., M.G.B., N.L.W., G.G., V.Z., W.M., and Y.S. designed research; I.H.G., O.A., M.K.A., J.J., M.G.B., N.L.W., W.M., and Y.S. performed research; B.J.C., N.L.W., T.T., G.G., V.Z., W.M., and Y.S. contributed new reagents/experimental tools; B.J.C., L.H.S., N.T.F., N.L.W., T.T., W.M., and Y.S. analyzed data; and B.J.C., L.H.S., I.H.G., O.A., J.J., M.G.B., N.L.W., V.Z., W.M., and Y.S. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 108
    • No. 36
    • pp. 14707-15010

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