27 Instant Gratification Examples (And How to Resist!)

27 Instant Gratification Examples (And How to Resist!)Reviewed by Chris Drew (PhD)

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

instant gratification examples and definition

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. It generally involves seeking a quick and easy solution rather than one that requires effort or is delayed. 

Psychologists argue that instant gratification is a behavior driven by impulsivity and short-term thinking, where the pleasure of satisfaction and instant dopamine hit outweighs any risks or consequences that may occur. It can be seen in many aspects of our lives.

For example, shopping is a common form of instant gratification. We make impulse purchases to satisfy our hunger or desire for something new, with little consideration for the cost or potential consequences. 

So, instant gratification brings people pleasure at the moment and can offer temporary relief from stress or boredom, but it also has its drawbacks. 

Definition of Instant Gratification

In psychology, instant gratification is the desire for an immediate reward or pleasure without any delay or postponement. It refers to a preference for short-term benefits over long-term rewards and a tendency to act impulsively to get what we want right away. 

In other words, instant gratification is “the temptation, and resulting tendency, to forego a future benefit to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate effect” (Oliviera, 2019, p. 242).

It’s a fundamental human impulse to want great things and to desire them NOW. It’s even been called our “instant culture”—where we’re quick to forget the value of investing in better things over time.

Instant gratification is driven by a need for immediate satisfaction and pleasure, where the rewards or benefits are experienced in the present moment. 

For example, today, marketing and advertising strategies of popular brands often encourage such behavior, promising a quick and easy solution to our problems (Patel, 2014). 

Simply put, instant gratification is the desire to take a shortcut or bypass any obstacles to get what we want right away, regardless of any potential risks or long-term consequences of our actions. 

Examples of Instant Gratification

  • Impulse shopping: Shopping can become an impulsive habit, providing people with a quick fix for their cravings without any thought of the associated cost or potential repercussions. For example, buying something expensive, we can ill-afford or impulsively buy items online without researching the product. 
  • Eating fast food: Fast food is the epitome of instant gratification; it’s fast, effortless, and offers pleasure immediately. When you go out for a quick bite, it’s easy to forget about the health consequences that come with eating such food regularly.
  • Winning on the slots: Slot machines presents an effortless chance to accumulate money quickly and effortlessly—without any labor or exertion. In reality, the odds are often stacked against the player, and it can lead to addiction or financial ruin.
  • Social media: Scrolling through Instagram and admiring your friends’ posts can be enjoyable at the moment, but unless you have aspirations to become an influencer, this is simply time wasted. Liking memorable photos and sharing stories about what you ate for lunch may seem harmless enough…but think twice before hitting that ‘post’ button!
  • Binge-watching TV: Binge-watching television is an example of instant gratification. Viewers can get lost in a show and experience satisfaction without waiting for the next episode. Consequently, they can become addicted and neglect their responsibilities or personal relationships.
  • Taking mood-enhancing substances: Taking mood-enhancing substances is also a form of instant gratification, as it provides an immediate escape from reality and relieves stress or boredom. Over time, this can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
  • Playing video games: Through conquering levels and succeeding at tasks, video games offer players an instantaneous surge of satisfaction. Immediate gratification is one of the reasons why these types of interactive titles are so enjoyable and appealing to many people.
  • Skipping your workout: Oftentimes, people use the path of least resistance and may be tempted to skip their workouts. However, this decision is nothing more than a means of obtaining instant gratification as it denies them the opportunity to put in hard work that produces lasting results.
  • Extreme sports: Adrenaline junkies often engage in dangerous activities to experience instant gratification, such as skydiving or bungee jumping. While this may provide a rush of adrenaline at the moment, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with these activities.
  • Procrastination: Ultimately, procrastination is a quintessential form of instant gratification: it lets you momentarily evade the duty at hand and provides an immediate sense of respite from any stress. However, this prevents you from completing the task on time and can lead to further issues. 

Additional Examples

  • Using credit cards for unnecessary purchases
  • Ordering takeout instead of cooking
  • Eating junk food
  • Checking your email or phone constantly
  • Surfing the internet aimlessly
  • Taking a nap instead of working
  • Buying unnecessary gadgets
  • Overindulging and not sharing
  • Cheating on an exam
  • Staying up late watching TV
  • Taking shortcuts
  • Gossiping or spreading rumors
  • Daydreaming
  • Lying to avoid conflict
  • Giving into temptation
  • Hitting snooze on your alarm
  • Bribing your child to stop crying with candy

Instant Gratification vs. Delayed Gratification

In contrast to instant gratification’s quick and easy solution, delayed gratification requires patience and hard work to achieve desired results. 

Instant gratification is a form of pleasure that comes without effort or waiting. Unfortunately, it often leads to reckless decisions and can be detrimental in the long run because it denies the opportunity to build character or gain satisfaction from hard work (Nakayama & Wan, 2021). 

On the other hand, delayed gratification rewards you with a feeling of success once you have accomplished a difficult task. It teaches discipline, resilience, and perseverance—all of which lead to long-lasting happiness and satisfaction (Hoerger et al., 2011). 

Ultimately, delayed gratification is the more rewarding option of the two as it offers lasting results and a greater sense of accomplishment. It is also the healthier choice for avoiding immediate, short-lived pleasures. 

Marshmallow Test Experiment and Instant Gratification

The Marshmallow Test is an iconic experiment by psychologist Walter Mischel to measure the concept of delayed gratification (Watts et al., 2018).

The experiment involved offering young children a marshmallow, with the option of having another one later if they waited for it.

By being able to abstain from consuming the marshmallow immediately, participants were rewarded with an additional one – a testament to their capacity for deferred gratification in order to receive greater benefits later on.

This experiment is particularly relevant to instant gratification, as it showcases the power of restraint in achieving greater rewards.

Consequences of Instant Gratification

On the surface, instant gratification may seem like a sensible trade-off of short-term joy for an insignificant delay. Nonetheless, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that its cumulative effect is immense.

When people succumb to instant gratification, they often settle for smaller rewards in the present instead of delaying their satisfaction and reaping greater benefits later.

Here are five common effects of instant gratification:

  • Poor decision-making: Instant gratification results in poor decision-making because it encourages people to take the easy way out without considering the potential consequences of their actions. 
  • Procrastination: When faced with an unpleasant task, people are more likely to resort to instant gratification to delay dealing with the task. It leads to procrastination and can result in missed deadlines. 
  • Impact on relationships: Instant gratification can also negatively affect relationships as people may prioritize their desire for immediate pleasure over the long-term needs of their partner or family. 
  • Impact on health: While instant gratification can temporarily boost energy and pleasure, the effects are usually short-lived and can have detrimental effects on our physical health. 
  • Unsatisfactory long-term outcomes: By choosing instant gratification over delayed one, people miss out on the opportunity to better their lives in the long run. They cannot reap the benefits of hard work and dedication, leaving them with dissatisfaction. 

How to Overcome Instant Gratification

Overcoming the temptation of instant gratification is difficult but not impossible. So, finding a balance between instant gratification and the best choice for the future is essential.

Here are five tips to help you break the habit:

  1. Set goals: Setting goals is important for staying focused on the end goal and limiting the chances of succumbing to instant gratification. Still, it is more advisable to set smaller goals that are easy to achieve as they will encourage you to continue working.
  2. Empathize with your future self: Imagine what your future self would want you to do in the present. Thinking about how the current decision will impact your future is a great way to maintain focus and curb the urge to take shortcuts.
  3. Develop self-discipline: Developing self-discipline takes practice; start with small tasks and reward yourself for a well-done job. You will gradually build up your capacity to resist temptation and make better decisions by taking small steps.
  4. Stay away from triggers: Avoid situations that might tempt you to make decisions you may regret later. It could be anything from skipping a workout to spending too much money on unnecessary items. Identify your triggers and find ways to stay away from them.
  5. Seek support: It is always easier to resist temptation when you have the support of others. Ask for help from a trusted family member or friend when you feel like giving in to instant gratification. Having someone to talk to and vent to can get you back on track and make it easier to overcome the urge.

Conclusion

Instant gratification is a common problem that can lead to poor decision-making and unsatisfactory long-term outcomes. It means sacrificing delayed gratification and the benefits it brings. 

The consequences of giving in to instant gratification can be detrimental, but it is possible to overcome this problem by developing self-discipline, setting goals, and seeking support from others. 

With enough determination and perseverance, it is possible to break the habit of instant gratification and make choices that bring greater rewards in the long run. 

References

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., & Weed, N. C. (2011). Development and validation of the delaying gratification inventory. Psychological Assessment23(3), 725–738. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023286

Nakayama, M., & Wan, Y. (2021). A quick bite and instant gratification: A simulated Yelp experiment on consumer review information foraging behavior. Information Processing & Management58(1), 102391. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ipm.2020.102391

Oliveira, L. (2019). Managing screen time in an online society. IGI Global.

Patel, N. (2014, June 24). The psychology of instant gratification and how it will revolutionize your marketing approach. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/growing-a-business/the-psychology-of-instant-gratification-and-how-it-will/235088

Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., & Quan, H. (2018). Revisiting the marshmallow test: A conceptual replication investigating links between early delay of gratification and later outcomes. Psychological Science29(7), 1159–1177. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618761661

Viktoriya Sus

Viktoriya Sus (MA)

Viktoriya Sus is an academic writer specializing mainly in economics and business from Ukraine. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Lviv National University and has more than 6 years of experience writing for different clients. Viktoriya is passionate about researching the latest trends in economics and business. However, she also loves to explore different topics such as psychology, philosophy, and more.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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