Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #549
CE Offered: BACB
Recent Advances in Basic and Applied Research in Delay Discounting
Monday, May 30, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 1; Room 152
Area: EAB/BPN; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Kimberly Crosland (University of South Florida)
Discussant: Suzanne H. Mitchell (Oregon Health & Science University)
CE Instructor: Suzanne H. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Delay discounting refers to the process of how a subject compares values and chooses between immediate and delayed consumption of a reward. This concept is important in studying self-control and impulsiveness in decision making. This symposium consists of two presentations that examined delay discounting and potential treatments in rats and two presentations on recent research in substance use and behavioral addictions in humans. The first study evaluated the use of a delay of gratification task for rats and found that prior learning history impacted outcomes. The second study evaluated the use of Finasteride as a possible treatment for rats with a history of alcohol as a reinforcer. The third study was a systematic review of empirical studies that evaluated interventions for delay discounting and alcohol use with human participants. The fourth study was a meta-analytic review that synthesized delay discounting research across a variety of behavioral addictions, from substance use to chronic smartphone use. These presentations will be followed by a discussion on future research directions.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): addiction, alcohol use, delay discounting
Target Audience:

Participants should have prior knowledge on basic research related to delay discounting and choice making.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) Describe the implications of experimental behavioral inhibition research on human behavior; (2) Describe novel treatments in experimental delay discounting research; (3) Identify interventions that have been effective at decreasing delay discounting and substance use in humans; (4) Apply previous research on delay discounting and substance use to various behavioral addictions.
Delay of Gratification in Rats
JEREMY HAYNES (Utah State University), Amy Odum (Utah State University)
Abstract: Some impulsive behaviors can be characterized in terms of choices for smaller-sooner outcomes (e.g., $50 now) over larger-delayed outcomes (e.g., $100 in 1 year). Patterns of such intertemporal choices can predict many socially significant health behaviors among humans. One often overlooked aspect of intertemporal choice is whether an individual will maintain their preference for a delayed outcome after choosing it. That is, when offered the opportunity, will individuals defect on their choice of a larger-delayed outcome? To further explore this aspect of intertemporal choice, we developed an increasing-delay delay of gratification task for rats that has allowed us to study the conditions under which a rat will or will not wait for a delayed outcome after choosing it. Across multiple studies, we found that prior experience has substantial effects on whether a rat will wait for a delayed outcome; experiences that could be relevant to the conditions in which people will wait for a larger-delayed outcome after choosing it. We discuss the results of these studies in terms of theories regarding delay of gratification as well as their relevance to socially significant human behaviors such as substance abuse.

Effects of a Novel Treatment on the Relative Efficacy of Food and Alcohol Rewards in Rats

ROBERT SCOTT LECOMTE (The University of Kansas), David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas, Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment)

Alcoholism and alcohol misuse carry significant ramifications at both individual and community health levels. Consequently, the need for exploration of effective treatments for Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) remains a priority among researchers and granting agencies alike. Of note, behavioral economics can help inform and evaluate novel treatments and their behavioral outcomes. To provide such evaluations, the current study involved 20 Long Evans rats (10 male, 10 female), responding for food and alcohol rewards during concurrent progressive ratio sessions. First, the relative efficacy of alcohol and sweetened condensed milk was evaluated in food deprived rats. Next, half of the rats received daily doses of Finasteride. The initial results showed significant reductions in alcohol consumption among the animals receiving doses of Finasteride. Behavioral economic switch-points between food vs. sweetened condensed milk, and food vs. alcohol rewards were then assessed in addition to operant analyses to further evaluate pharmacodynamic effects. Results will be described.

A Systematic Review of Delay Discounting and Alcohol Use Interventions in Humans
ASHA FULLER (University of South Florida), Kimberly Crosland (University of South Florida)
Abstract: In daily life individuals make a variety of decisions with short-term and long-term impacts. When an individual repeatedly chooses the immediate, smaller reward instead of the later, larger reward, this is termed delay discounting. Delay discounting has been associated with a variety of health outcomes from risky sexual behaviors to substance use. Individuals with chronic substance use have a higher likelihood of valuing the smaller, immediate reward than individuals who never or occasionally use substances. The purpose of this systematic review is to present an overview of delay discounting and alcohol use interventions for humans over the past 30 years. Medications, behavioral interventions, therapies, and working memory trainings have all been used to attempt to decreasing alcohol use and delay discounting. Results indicate that medications, behavioral interventions, and working memory training have all demonstrated positive treatment results. Limitations and recommendations for future research in delay discounting and alcohol use interventions will be discussed.
Delay Discounting in Established and Proposed Behavioral Addictions: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
SARAH CATHERINE WEINSZTOK (University of Kansas), Sarah Brassard (McMaster University), Iris Balodis (McMaster University), Laura Martin (University of Kansas Medical Center), Michael Amlung (University of Kansas)
Abstract: Steep delay discounting, or a greater preference for smaller-immediate rewards over larger-delayed rewards, is a common phenomenon across a range of substance use and psychiatric disorders. Non-substance behavioral addictions (e.g., gambling disorder, internet gaming disorder, food addiction) are of increasing interest in delay discounting research. To synthesize the published research in this area and identify priorities for future research, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of delay discounting studies across a range of established and proposed behavioral addiction categories. For studies with categorical designs, we found statistically significant, medium-to-large effect sizes for gambling disorder and IGD. Categorical internet/smartphone studies were non-significant. Aggregate correlations in dimensional studies were statistically significant, but generally small magnitude for gambling, internet/smartphone, and food addiction. Heterogeneity statistics suggested substantial variability across studies, and publication bias indices indicated moderate impact of unpublished or small sample studies. These findings generally suggest that some behavioral addictions are associated with steeper discounting, with the most robust evidence for gambling disorder. We discuss the implications of these findings, highlight behavioral addiction categories with smaller effect sizes or categories with too few studies to be included (e.g., compulsive buying), and identify key areas for future research.



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