We are notoriously bad at foregoing instant gratification for longer-term rewards. In laboratory studies and in the real world, people frequently make impatient decisions that economists would call “suboptimal,” and, in real-life terms, result in credit card debt, obesity, or drug addiction.
Add emotion to the mix, and the decision-making seems to get worse: sad people make even more impatient financial decisions, one study found. Stamping out emotional responses seems like the best path to making wiser and more logical decisions.
A team of researchers led by a Northeastern University psychologist has found, however, that one emotion can make us more patient: feeling grateful improves people’s ability to take the long-view when making financial decisions.
In a study to be published in the journal Psychological Science, they found that, on average, grateful people were more willing to forego immediate temptation for a larger reward than people who were merely neutral or happy.