Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Allison Atteberry

Third Advisor

McKell Carston

Fourth Advisor

Phil Fernbach

Fifth Advisor

Naomi Friedman


Delaying gratification for long-run goals in the face of short-run costs and temptations predicts a wide array of important outcomes, including academic achievement, financial stability, and physical health. Therefore, understanding the development of delay of gratification—how it changes within and across children, and the causes and correlates of those changes—carries substantial implications for individuals and societies. This dissertation seeks to investigate the conventional assumption that apparent “failures” to delay gratification reflect limitations in self-control, and to test for a causal role of social trust in driving future-oriented decisions and behaviors. Five studies using a combination of experimental, quasi-experimental, and quantitative modeling methods provide converging evidence that trust influences delay of gratification and may drive the life outcomes associated with willingness to delay. These findings demonstrate that manipulations of social trust influence delaying gratification, and highlight intriguing alternative reasons for individual differences in delaying gratification and associated life outcomes.