Background Why do some people live for the present, whereas others save for the future? The evolutionary framework of life history theory predicts that preference for delay of gratification should be influenced by social economic status (SES). However, here we propose that the decision to choose alternatives in immediate and delayed gratification in poverty environments may have a psychological dimension. Specifically, the perception of environmental poverty cues may induce people alike to favor choices with short-term, likely smaller benefit than choices with long-term, greater benefit. Methodology/Principal Findings The present study was conducted to explore how poverty and affluence cues affected individuals' intertemporal choices. In our first two experiments, individuals exposed explicitly (Experiment 1) and implicitly (Experiment 2) to poverty pictures (the poverty cue) were induced to prefer immediate gratification compared with those exposed to affluence pictures (the affluence cue). Furthermore, by the manipulation of temporary perceptions of poverty and affluence status using a lucky draw game; individuals in the poverty state were more impulsive in a manner, which made them pursue immediate gratification in intertemporal choices (Experiment 3). Thus, poverty cues can lead to short-term choices. Conclusions/Significance Decision makers chose more frequently the sooner-smaller reward over the later-larger reward as they were exposed to the poverty cue. This indicates that it is that just the feeling of poverty influences intertemporal choice – the actual reality of poverty (restricted resources, etc.) is not necessary to get the effect. Furthermore, our findings emphasize that it is a change of the poverty-affluence status, not a trait change, can influence individual preference in intertemporal choice.
Lei Liu, Tingyong Feng, Tao Suo