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Gratification, like all emotions, is a motivator of behavior and thus plays a role in the entire range of human social systems.
The term instant gratification is often used to label the satisfactions gained by more impulsive behaviors: choosing now over tomorrow. The skill of giving preference to long term goals over more immediate ones is known as deferred gratification or patience, and it is usually considered a virtue, producing rewards in the long-term.
Walter Mischel developed the well-known marshmallow experiment to test gratification patterns in four-year-olds, offering one marshmallow now or two after a delay. He discovered in long-term follow-up that the ability to resist eating the marshmallow immediately was a good predictor of success in later life.
While one might say that those who lack the skill to delay are immature, an excess of this skill can create problems as well; i.e. an individual becomes inflexible, or unable to take pleasure in life (anhedonia) and seize opportunities for fear of adverse consequences.
Gratification becomes a major issue in manic-depression. One sign of the onset of depression is a spreading loss of the sense of gratification in such immediate things as friendship, jokes, conversation, food and sex. Long-term gratifications seem even more meaningless.
By contrast, the manic can find gratification in almost anything, even a leaf falling, for example.
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