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Front Psychol. 2017 Mar 6;8:289. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00289. eCollection 2017.

The Vivid Present: Visualization Abilities Are Associated with Steep Discounting of Future Rewards.

Author information

1
Neuroscience Graduate Group, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA, USA.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA, USA.
4
Neuroscience Graduate Group, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaPA, USA; Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaPA, USA.

Abstract

Humans and other animals discount the value of future rewards, a phenomenon known as delay discounting. Individuals vary widely in the extent to which they discount future rewards, and these tendencies have been associated with important life outcomes. Recent studies have demonstrated that imagining the future reduces subsequent discounting behavior, but no research to date has examined whether a similar principle applies at the trait level, and whether training visualization changes discounting. The current study examined if individual differences in visualization abilities are linked to individual differences in discounting and whether practicing visualization can change discounting behaviors in a lasting way. Participants (n = 48) completed the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) and delay discounting task and then underwent a 4-week intervention consisting of visualization training (intervention) or relaxation training (control). Contrary to our hypotheses, participants who reported greater visualization abilities (lower scores) on the VVIQ were higher discounters. To further examine this relationship, an additional 106 participants completed the VVIQ and delay discounting task. In the total sample (n = 154), there was a significant negative correlation between VVIQ scores and discount rates, showing that individuals who are better visualizers are also higher discounters. Consistent with this relationship but again to our surprise, visualization training tended, albeit weakly, to increase discount rates, and those whose VVIQ decreased the most were those whose discount rates increased the most. These results suggest a novel association between visualization abilities and delay discounting.

KEYWORDS:

delay discounting; future thinking; imagination; intertemporal choice; visualization

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