Waiting can actually help make you more patient, Chicago Booth research shows

Study finds that delayed gratification can make us appreciate end result more

Aug 05, 2013, 07:00 ET from University of Chicago Booth School of Business

CHICAGO, Aug. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Internet users are quick to move on when a website takes more than a couple of seconds to load. But new research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business shows that waiting can make you more patient.

In studying patience, researchers often offer people a choice between a smaller reward soon or a larger reward later — and have found that most people choose the smaller, quicker payoff even though it makes them less well-off financially. This behavior is called intertemporal discounting — where people value things more in the present and discount their value in the future.

Ayelet Fishbach, Jeffrey Breakenridge Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing, divided participants into three groups where each group had to wait different amounts of time before potentially getting their prize. Group 1 was told they could win $50 in three days or $55 in 23 days; Group 2 was told they could win $50 in 30 days or $55 in 50 days; and Group 3 was told they would have to wait before choosing an award — and then were contacted by researchers 27 days later and given the option of getting $50 in three days or $55 in 23 days.

What Fishbach and Xianchi Dai, a former Booth postdoctoral student who now is at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found was that only 31 percent of participants in the first group were willing to wait longer for a bigger reward, while 56 percent in the second group were willing to wait. In the third group, 86 percent of participants chose to wait longer, even though they were making the same choice as the people in the first group. The fact that they had been waiting to choose increased their patience.

The researchers found the same result in people who were waiting for something other than money, too.

To help explain this, Fishbach says that when people wait, it makes them place a higher value on what they're waiting for, and that increased value makes them more patient. This is the result of a process known as self-reflection.

When we see people camping out for the latest iPhone, we infer that the campers must find the iPhone valuable and worth waiting for. When we find ourselves waiting in that same line, we make a similar inference about ourselves, particularly when we are unsure of the value of what we are waiting for.

Read more about the research at ChicagoBooth.edu/CapIdeas/magazine or hear from Fishbach on the Capital Ideas YouTube page. To request an interview with Fishbach, contact Ethan Grove at 773-834-5161 or ethan.grove@ChicagoBooth.edu.

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is one of the leading business schools in the world. The school's faculty includes many renowned scholars, and its graduates include many business leaders across the U.S. and worldwide.

The Chicago approach to management education is distinguished by how it leverages fundamental knowledge, its rigor and its practical application to business challenges.

Chicago Booth offers a Full-Time MBA Program, an Evening MBA Program and a Weekend MBA Program, as well as an Executive MBA Program in Chicago, London and Singapore. The school also offers a Ph.D. program, open-enrollment executive education and custom corporate education.


Ethan Grove (773) 834-5161 


SOURCE University of Chicago Booth School of Business