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Clin Psychol Sci. 2017 Jul;5(4):683-697. doi: 10.1177/2167702617696511. Epub 2017 May 2.

Bleak Present, Bright Future: Online Episodic Future Thinking, Scarcity, Delay Discounting, and Food Demand.

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University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.


Obesity is associated with steep discounting of the future and increased food reinforcement. Episodic future thinking (EFT), a type of prospective thinking, has been observed to reduce delay discounting (DD) and improve dietary decision making. In contrast, negative income shock (i.e., abrupt transitions to poverty) has been shown to increase discounting and may worsen dietary decision-making. Scalability of EFT training and protective effects of EFT against simulated negative income shock on DD and demand for food were assessed. In two experiments we showed online-administered EFT reliably reduced DD. Furthermore, EFT reduced DD and demand for fast foods even when challenged by negative income shock. Our findings suggest EFT is a scalable intervention that has implications for improving public health by reducing discounting of the future and demand for high energy dense food.


Episodic future thinking; delay discounting; online interventions; reinforcing value of food; scarcity

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