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Using Your Imagination to Increase Your Patience

Trying Not to Try: The Art & Science of Spontaneity

After a week of Spring Break with my kids, trying to take care of their needs while also working from home, I’m reaching the outer limits of my patience.

What if there was a way to train myself to become more patient?

Past research into this subject by scientists has usually focused on increasing willpower, but a new study suggests that instead, using imagination is a good way to become more patient.

“Whereas willpower might enable people to override impulses, imagining the consequences of their choices might change the impulses,” wrote study author Adrianna Jenkins, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. “People tend to pay attention to what is in their immediate vicinity, but there are benefits to imagining the possible consequences of their choices.”

To conduct the research, Jenkins and Ming Hsu, an associate professor of marketing and neuroscience, used a monetary award for participants. They were given choices about how to receive this monetary award, which stayed the same, but how it was framed, or expressed, was different.

One group was told they could receive $100 tomorrow, or $120 in 30 days — this was the “independent” frame. The other group was told that they could receive $100 tomorrow and no money in 30 days, or no money tomorrow and $120 in 30 days. This was called a “sequence” frame. Same results financially, but different communication.

It turned out that people in the sequence frame group were able to better imagine the consequence of their choices. One participant, for example, wrote, “It would be nice to have the $100 now, but $20 more at the end of the month is probably worth it because this is like one week’s gas money.”

Participants who had the independent frame presented to them demonstrated less imagination. One participant commented, “I’d rather have the money tomorrow even if it’s a lesser amount. I can get the things I need instead of waiting. Why wait a month for just $20 more?”

The more participants imagined the consequences of their choices, the more they were able to be patient in order to receive the greater reward. “We know people often have difficulty being patient,” Jenkins wrote. “Our findings suggest that imagination is a possible route for attaining patience that may be more sustainable and practical than exerting willpower.”

Which is good, because willpower, as many of us can attest, won’t always cut it!

This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health.

Using Your Imagination to Increase Your Patience

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Using Your Imagination to Increase Your Patience. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 30 Apr 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.