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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Nov;224(1):109-20. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2745-6. Epub 2012 May 29.

Altruism in time: social temporal discounting differentiates smokers from problem drinkers.

Author information

1
Addiction Recovery Research Center, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, VA, USA. wkbickel@vt.edu

Abstract

RATIONALE:

Recent studies on reinforcer valuation in social situations have informed research on mental illness. Social temporal discounting may be a way to examine effects of social context on the devaluation of delayed reinforcers. In prior research with non-drug-using groups, we demonstrated that individuals discount delayed rewards less rapidly (i.e., value the future more) for a group of which they are a member than they do for themselves alone.

OBJECTIVES:

The current study examined how cigarette smoking and level of alcohol use relate to rates of delay and social temporal discounting.

METHODS:

In this study, we used crowd-sourcing technology to contact a large number of individuals (N = 796). Some of these individuals were hazardous-to-harmful drinkers (n = 269), whereas others were non-problem drinkers (n = 523); some were smokers (n = 182), whereas others were nonsmokers (n = 614). Delay discounting questionnaires for individual rewards (me now, me later) and for group rewards (we now, we later; me now, we later) were used to measure individuals' discounting rates across various social contexts.

RESULTS:

Our analyses found that smokers discounted delayed rewards more rapidly than controls under all conditions. However, hazardous-to-harmful drinkers discounted delayed rewards significantly more rapidly than the non-problem drinkers under the individual condition, but not under the social conditions.

CONCLUSIONS:

This finding suggests that the use of different abused drugs may be associated with excessive discounting in the individual condition and has selective effects when discounting for a group in the social conditions.

PMID:
22644127
DOI:
10.1007/s00213-012-2745-6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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