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Behav Processes. 2003 Oct 31;64(3):287-303.

Measurement of delay discounting using trial-by-trial consequences.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston, 1300 Moursund Street, 77030, Houston, TX, USA


DELAY DISCOUNTING IN HUMANS WAS INVESTIGATED USING THREE DIFFERENT PROCEDURES: a frequently used discounting procedure with hypothetical rewards and delays; a procedure with hypothetical rewards and delays compressed down to much smaller values; and a contingent procedure in which each choice had a direct consequence. In the contingent procedure, on every trial, participants actually experienced the delay and obtained the reward amount associated with their choice. Each participant was exposed to all three procedures. Orderly temporal discounting patterns were obtained in all three procedures and described well by a hyperbolic model. Comparisons of the data revealed patterns unique to each procedure. The distributions of the discounting measures differed across the three procedures. In the contingent procedure, several subjects showed no discounting, e.g. complete self-control. Procedural factors in studies of impulsivity are discussed, and suggestions are offered for experiments in which the contingent-discounting procedure may prove useful.

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