While the act of waiting on line or for a friend may be dreaded by many, it actually helps people become more patient and develop better cognitive thinking, according to a recent study.
Ayelet Fishbach, a profesor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Xianchi Dai, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School, wanted to examine the effect of waiting on people's decision-making. The researchers conducted a series of studies in the United States, mainland China, and Hong Kong.
In the study, the researchers solicited the participants to join a subject pool for online studies, according to Science Daily. Upon signing up for the studies, the participants were invited to enter one of two lotteries: the first lottery would pay a $50 prize to the individual while the second would pay a $55 prize later. The participants were divided into three groups; each group had to wait a different amount of time before they were given their potential prize.
The first group could win $50 in three days or $55 in 23 days, the second could win $50 in 30 days or $55 in 50 days, and the third could win $50 in 30 days or $55 in 50 days but they had to wait before choosing the potential prize. The team of researchers contacted the participants of the third group 27 days later to ask what decision they made between choosing three days or 23 days to receive a potential prize.
Thirty-one percent of the participants in the first group chose to wait for the $55 in 23 days, whereas 56 percent of the second group chose to wait 50 days for the extra $5 in their potential reward. The researchers found that 86 percent of participants in the third group choose to wait for the larger reward, $55, even after they were contacted 27 days later to make their decision. The third group waited the longest to be contacted by their researchers regarding their decision, which actually helped to increase their patience.
"They see more value in what they are waiting for because of a process psychologists call self-perception — we learn what we want and prefer by assessing our own behavior, much the same way we learn about others by observing how they behave,” said Fishbach about the individuals who chose to wait for the potential reward.
The self-perception theory suggests that people put themselves in the same position as an outside observer would. An example of this theory is when a woman is asked whether she likes to wear heels. The woman would typically reply that she must like to wear heels since she’s wearing them all the time. The woman, thus, gave the same response that her friend would give if her friend was asked to answer for her.
While waiting was found to actually help people become more patient and have better cognitive thinking, the economic status of the participants remains undisclosed. Participants who may have gone through financial struggles during the study would be more compelled to get the potential reward sooner rather than later to settle their financial woes. The participants who were well-off financially would have the luxury of waiting longer for the money since they didn’t face any financial burdens.
Overall, the act of waiting may place a higher value on what you’re actually wanting to acquire, which helps you become more patient. If a person knows the rewards will be much more profitable later rather than sooner, that person’s ability to be patient grows. After all, good things do come to those who wait.