Academic motivation mediates the influence of temporal discounting on academic achievement during adolescence

Nikki Lee*, Lydia Krabbendam, Sanne Dekker, Annemarie Boschloo, Renate De Groot, Jelle Jolles

*Corresponding author for this work

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    This study used a large sample (N=638) of 12-18 year old adolescents to investigate the relationship between academic achievement and temporal discounting, a behavioural measurement of delay of gratification abilities. Neuroscience studies have demonstrated development during adolescence of the areas of the brain involved in delaying immediate gratification in order to achieve long-term goals. This finding may have important consequences for educational practice, as students are frequently required to forsake attractive short-term rewards in favour of less attractive academic long-term alternatives. Results showed that adolescents with an increased ability to delay gratification achieved higher grades then those less able to delay gratification. This relationship was mediated by academic motivation, showing that the effect of delayed gratification abilities on grades was most effective when academic motivation was high. Our results show that the ability to delay gratification may be an individual difference variable that distinguishes high achieving students from their peers. It also highlights that understanding the development of neurocognitive processes can provide a valid contribution to understanding ways in which we can influence academic success.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)43-48
    Number of pages6
    JournalTrends in Neuroscience and Education
    Issue number1
    Early online date23 Oct 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


    • adolescents
    • academic achievement
    • motivation
    • temporal discounting
    • Delay of gratification
    • Adolescence
    • Educational Neuroscience
    • Self-regulation


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