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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Sep;147(9):1349-1381. doi: 10.1037/xge0000462.

Experimental reductions of delay discounting and impulsive choice: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychology, Utah State University.


Many behaviors posing significant risks to public health are characterized by repeated decisions to forego better long-term outcomes in the face of immediate temptations. Steeply discounting the value of delayed outcomes often underlies a pattern of impulsive choice. Steep delay discounting is correlated with addictions (e.g., substance abuse, obesity) and behaviors such as seatbelt use and risky sexual activity. As evidence accumulates suggesting steep delay discounting plays a causal role in these maladaptive behaviors, researchers have begun testing methods for reducing discounting. In this first systematic and comprehensive review of this literature, the findings of 92 articles employing different methodologies to reduce discounting are evaluated narratively and meta-analytically. Although most of the methods reviewed produced significant reductions in discounting, they varied in effect sizes. Most methods were ideal for influencing one-off choices (e.g., framing and priming manipulations), although other successful manipulations, such as episodic future thinking, could be incorporated into existing therapies designed to produce longer-lasting changes in decision-making. The largest and longest-lasting effects were produced by learning-based manipulations, although translational research is needed to determine the generality and clinical utility of these methods. Methodological shortcomings in the existing literature and suggestions for ameliorating these issues are discussed. This review reveals a variety of methods with translational potential, which, through continued refinement, may prove effective in reducing impulsive choice and its associated maladaptive decisions that negatively impact quality of life. (PsycINFO Database Record.

[Available on 2019-09-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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