Self-control: teaching tolerance for delay in impulsive children.

Julie B Schweitzer, B. Sulzer-Azaroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


We investigated a procedure to increase the selection of larger, more delayed reinforcers (i.e., more advantageous in the long run) over smaller immediate reinforcers, in an effort to increase a key aspect of self-control in children. Six preschoolers, including one comparison subject, identified by their teachers as impulsive, were preassessed and found consistently to select smaller immediate reinforcers over larger, more delayed ones. The teaching procedure consisted of gradually increasing the durations of the delay interval over many sessions. The follow-up assessments showed that 5 of these children increased the proportion of their choices of the delayed reinforcers. Before training, indifference points ranged from 1.7 to 51.7 s; following treatment, points rose to a range of 37.5 to at least 90 s, with 3 children preferring the larger reinforcer at all delay intervals tested. The results demonstrated the feasibility of teaching young children to make choices more advantageous to them in the long run.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-186
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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