This research examined whether priming very young children with a specific positive emotion would enhance their pursuit of the goal associated with that emotion. Specifically, we focused on the influence of two distinct positive emotions—pride and joy, each of which is associated with a distinct type of goal (long-term and short-term goals, respectively)—on child delay of gratification (DoG). DoG is a specific form of self-regulation that requires forgoing an immediately desired goal for the sake of a larger delayed goal. We examined whether this influence exists among preschool-aged children, an age at which emotion-related and self-regulation abilities are still developing. Across two experiments, preschoolers heard a story about another child's emotional experience of either pride or joy and then completed a DoG task. Experiment 2 was a replication of Experiment 1 using a different set of emotional scenarios. As predicted, pride-primed children showed a greater preference for larger delayed rewards over smaller immediate rewards, demonstrating enhanced DoG abilities compared with joy-primed children. These findings imply that the motivational components underlying discrete positive emotions (as well as the associations between emotions and goal pursuits) are integral to children's emotional processes. Furthermore, our findings suggest that these emotional processes influence behavior even among very young children who have not yet fully developed the relevant abilities.
- Delay of gratification
- Goal pursuit
- Positive emotions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology