Delay of gratification in psychopathic and nonpsychopathic offenders

J Abnorm Psychol. 1992 Nov;101(4):630-6. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.101.4.630.


Delay of gratification is a prototypical measure of self-control that merits systematic investigation in psychopaths. White male prisoners were provided with repeated opportunities to select an immediate response with uncertain reward or a delayed response with a higher rate of reward under one of three incentive conditions. Psychopaths' performance depended on their level of trait anxiety and incentive condition: Whereas low-anxious psychopaths were relatively unwilling to delay when omission of expected rewards also incurred monetary punishments, they displayed relatively superior performance when the task involved rewards only. Findings complement those for passive avoidance learning in psychopaths and suggest that inhibitory self-control in low-anxious psychopaths is somewhat impaired under conditions involving a combination of monetary rewards and punishments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Reaction Time