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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1999 Mar;25(2):418-27.

Amount of reward has opposite effects on the discounting of delayed and probabilistic outcomes.

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Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


Previous research has shown that the value of large future rewards is discounted less steeply than is the value of small future rewards. These experiments extended this line of research to probabilistic rewards. Two experiments replicated the standard findings for delayed rewards but demonstrated that amount has an opposite effect on the discounting of probabilistic rewards. That is, large probabilistic amounts were discounted at the same or higher rates than small amounts. Although amount had opposite effects on the discounting of delayed and probabilistic rewards, nevertheless, the same form of mathematical function accurately described discounting of both types of reward. The findings suggest that fundamentally similar, but not identical, processes are involved in decision making regarding delayed and probabilistic rewards. The implications of these findings for impulsivity and self-control are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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