Escaping the impulse to immediate gratification: the prospect concept promotes a future-oriented mindset, prompting an inclination towards delayed gratification

Br J Psychol. 2012 Feb;103(1):129-41. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02067.x. Epub 2011 Aug 23.


People's willingness to postpone receiving an immediate reward in order to gain additional benefits in the future, that is, a tendency to shallow delay discounting, is closely related to one's health, wealth, and happiness. We conducted two experiments investigating how the prospect concept can induce a future-oriented mindset and induce people to behave accordingly. We found that engaging in prospective imagery led the participants to focus on delayed utility over immediate utility in financial decisions (Experiment 1). Participants who received the prospect prime via a scrambled-sentence task decreased their desire to pursue hedonic activities for instant gratification (Experiment 2). Moreover, a state of future orientation mediated the effect of the prospect prime on measures of delayed gratification (Experiments 1 and 2). Thus, reminders of prospect may activate a mindset for future orientation by which delayed gratification is strengthened.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Pleasure / physiology
  • Psychological Tests
  • Reward*
  • Young Adult