Immediate gratification stems from lack of self-control

September 10th, 2008 - 12:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 10 (IANS) Many of us would prefer immediate gratification than await a much larger reward years later - an impulsive behaviour that erodes self-control.Previous research linked higher intelligence with better self-control, but the reasons were unknown. Noah A. Shamosh and Jeremy R. Gray, psychologists from Yale University, wanted to test the idea that brain regions supporting short-term memory play a critical role in this relationship.

“Our study implicates the function of a specific brain structure, the anterior prefrontal cortex (APC), which is one of the last brain structures to fully mature,” said Shamosh.

In this study, 103 healthy adults had to choose between two financial rewards, a smaller one which they would receive immediately or another, larger reward which they would receive later.

The participants then underwent a variety of tests of intelligence and short term memory. Their brain activity was measured using fMRI, while they performed additional short-term memory tasks.

The results show that participants with the greatest activation in the APC also scored the highest on intelligence tests and exhibited the best self-control during the financial reward test. This was the only brain region to show this relation.

The results appeared in the September issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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