Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Yuko Munakata

Second Advisor

Eliana Colunga

Third Advisor

Tor Wager


Delaying gratification is hard, yet crucial to individual and societal success. Prominent theories focus on the importance of self-control, hypersensitivity to immediate rewards, and the subjective cost of time spent waiting. However, delaying gratification may also require trust in people delivering future rewards as promised. Four studies tested the role of social trust in delaying gratification. In Experiments 1 and 2, adult participants were presented with hypothetical character vignettes and faces that varied in trustworthiness, and then chose between smaller immediate or larger delayed rewards from those characters. In Experiment 3, children participated in the delay of gratification task with an experimenter who behaved in either a trustworthy or an untrustworthy manner toward a confederate. Across all three experiments, participants were less willing to wait for delayed rewards from less trustworthy individuals. Experiment 4 measured individual differences in social trust and delaying gratification. Trust measures did not correlate with delay choices. This work demonstrates that manipulating social trust influences delay of gratification, across hypothetical and realized scenarios, in adults and children.