Teaching Self-Control: From Basic Findings to Educational Applications for Children

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

44th Annual Association for Behavior Analysis International Convention


Association for Behavior Analysis


San Diego, CA

Publication Date



The inability to tolerate delays for preferred items or activities (i.e., impulsivity) is associated with a variety of outcomes including substance abuse and addiction, obesity, problem gambling, risky behavior, low physical activity, and failure to engage in safety behaviors. Recent findings from basic research indicate that rats can be trained to tolerate increasing delays to reinforcement and that longer delay-tolerance training programs produce more durable results than shorter training programs. In applied research, teaching tolerance to delay has shown to decrease problem behavior and increase pro-social behavior in preschoolers. Combined, the basic and applied literatures indicate that delay tolerance can be influenced by systematic training. Expanding the duration of delay-tolerance training in applied settings has the potential to reduce the prevalence of impulsive choices that underlie maladaptive behaviors impacting human health. In this session, the results from a systematic literature review on teaching tolerance to delays (i.e., waiting) in young children will be described. Future directions for research and practice will be proposed, including the development and implementation of teaching programs that can be easily embedded in to already existing routines and curricula in early childhood programs serving young children.

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