Experiencing Regret About a Choice Helps Children Learn to Delay Gratification

Teresa McCormack, Eimear O'Connor, Jessica Cherry, Sarah R. Beck, Aidan Feeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
832 Downloads (Pure)


Six-to-seven-year-olds decided whether to wait for a short delay to win a prize or for a longer period to win a different prize. Those who chose to take their prize after a short delay won two candies, but were shown that they would have won four candies if they had waited longer. We measured whether children regretted their choice not to wait. The next day, children were faced with the same choice again. Children who regretted choosing the short delay on Day 1 were more likely to delay gratification on Day 2 than children who had not regretted their previous choice. In a second study, we replicated this finding while controlling for intellectual ability and children’s preference for 4 over 2 candies. This suggests that experiencing regret about a choice not to wait assists children in delaying gratification when faced with the same choice again.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-175
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date08 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


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