Distinct positive emotions signal adherence to specific goals: pride signals the successful pursuit of long-term goals, while joy signals the successful pursuit of immediate desires. We propose that when children are primed with a positive emotion, without actually feeling it, they are likely to pursue the goal that evokes it. Because delaying gratification involves resisting an immediate desire for the sake of a long-term goal, we predicted that, when primed with pride, children would delay gratification more often than when primed with joy. We tested 8-year-olds’ ability to delay gratification, using a delay-discounting task. We primed pride/joy by having children either imagine a future emotional event (Experiment 1) or listen to another child’s emotional experience (Experiment 2). As predicted, pride-primed children showed lower delay discounting than children who were primed with joy and the control condition, demonstrating enhanced self-regulation. These results suggest that, from a young age, simply thinking about an emotion without actually experiencing it may cue pursuit of associated goals.
- Delay of gratification
- Positive emotion
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology