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Front Behav Neurosci. 2009 Jun 11;3:9. doi: 10.3389/neuro.08.009.2009. eCollection 2009.

Temporal discounting and inter-temporal choice in rhesus monkeys.

Author information

1
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester Rochester, NY, USA.

Abstract

Humans and animals are more likely to take an action leading to an immediate reward than actions with delayed rewards of similar magnitudes. Although such devaluation of delayed rewards has been almost universally described by hyperbolic discount functions, the rate of this temporal discounting varies substantially among different animal species. This might be in part due to the differences in how the information about reward is presented to decision makers. In previous animal studies, reward delays or magnitudes were gradually adjusted across trials, so the animals learned the properties of future rewards from the rewards they waited for and consumed previously. In contrast, verbal cues have been used commonly in human studies. In the present study, rhesus monkeys were trained in a novel inter-temporal choice task in which the magnitude and delay of reward were indicated symbolically using visual cues and varied randomly across trials. We found that monkeys could extract the information about reward delays from visual symbols regardless of the number of symbols used to indicate the delay. The rate of temporal discounting observed in the present study was comparable to the previous estimates in other mammals, and the animal's choice behavior was largely consistent with hyperbolic discounting. Our results also suggest that the rate of temporal discounting might be influenced by contextual factors, such as the novelty of the task. The flexibility furnished by this new inter-temporal choice task might be useful for future neurobiological investigations on inter-temporal choice in non-human primates.

KEYWORDS:

decision making; neuroeconomics; prefrontal cortex; reward

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