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J Exp Anal Behav. 2004 Jan;81(1):39-50.

Discounting of delayed food rewards in pigeons and rats: is there a magnitude effect?

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Washington University, Campus Box 1125, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA. lgreen@wustl.edu

Abstract

Temporal discounting refers to the decrease in the present, subjective value of a reward as the time to its receipt increases. Results from humans have shown that a hyperbola-like function describes the form of the discounting function when choices involve hypothetical monetary rewards. In addition, magnitude effects have been reported in which smaller reward amounts are discounted more steeply than larger amounts. The present research examines the cross-species generality of these findings using real rewards, namely food pellets, with both pigeons and rats. As with humans, an adjusting amount procedure was used to estimate the amount of immediate reward judged equal in value to a delayed reward. Different amounts of delayed food rewards (ranging from 5 to 32 pellets in pigeons and from 5 to 20 pellets in rats) were studied at delays varying from 1 s to 32 s. A simple hyperbola, similar to the hyperbola-like mathematical function that describes the discounting of hypothetical monetary rewards in humans, described the discounting of food rewards in both pigeons and rats. These results extend the generality of the mathematical model of discounting. Rates of discounting delayed food rewards were higher for pigeons than for rats. Unlike humans, however, neither pigeons nor rats showed a reliable magnitude effect: Rate of discounting did not vary systematically as a function of the amount of the delayed reward.

PMID:
15113132
PMCID:
PMC1284970
DOI:
10.1901/jeab.2004.81-39
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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