If you took 100 undergraduate students and offered them money either now or later, which do you think they’d choose? Come on, they’re college students—they need that money for things like booze, and sometimes education.
Jacob Hirsh and his team at Northwestern University in Illinois conducted a study with 137 undergraduate students from the University of Toronto, offering them either $2 to $20 now or $100 to $1,000 later.
Interestingly, personality played a key role in their decision making.
The extrovert—determined by a personality test—was found to be far more likely to choose the immediate reward in order to gain immediate gratification.
Hirsh explained to LiveScience:
It means their brains are wired up to be more responsive to the rewards in their environment. They like everything in life more.
There were, of course, some who choose the greater reward. So the team tested for another factor—mood—by giving the subjects games to win (good mood) or lose (bad). The researchers then monitored the subjects’ behavior after the game.
Extroverts in a good mood were most likely to immediately go out and spend the cash. If they could take on the world right now, why worry about later?
Introverts proved to be the more conservative, consistent group. Before the mood study, they were more likely to take the long-term amount. After the mood study: same.
“We treat positive mood as universally desirable, but this research suggests there may be a bit more of a tradeoff,” Hirsh says. “It may bias us to think only of immediate rewards and not long-term opportunities.”