A new approach to measuring patience in preschoolers

Article in a refereed journal

Cristina Atance and Gladys Barragan, "A new approach to measuring patience in preschoolers", Developmental Psychobiology, June 2017.[ Forthcoming ]


Patience in children has usually been studied using delay of gratification paradigms. However, another important aspect of patience that has not been well documented is the ability to adjust one's behavior while waiting without an explicit reward as a motivator (e.g., sitting in the doctor's waiting room). To examine this aspect of patience, video-recordings of sixty-one 3- and 4-year olds waiting for two separate 3-min periods were examined and coded for children's spontaneous behaviors. We found that 4-year olds displayed more patient (i.e., staying still) behaviors than 3-year olds during this “waiting paradigm.” Interestingly, we also found that children who displayed less patient behaviors during the waiting paradigm were also those who succeeded on a future-thinking task. These findings have important implications for measuring patience in young children and highlight the potential impact of spontaneous behaviors on children's performance in cognitive tasks such as those assessing future-oriented cognition.

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