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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Paper Session #517
Recent Advances in the Study of Delay Discounting
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Zurich E, Swissotel
Area: EAB
Chair: Jesslyn N. Farros (FirstSteps for Kids)

A Comparison of Hypothetical and Real Rewards: The Effects of Response Effort and Monetary Rewards on Self-Control

Domain: Basic Research
JESSLYN N. FARROS (FirstSteps for Kids, Inc.), Angela Crawford (FirstSteps for Kids), Matthew C. Bell (Santa Clara University), Henry D. Schlinger (California State University, LA)

The purpose of the current experiments was to evaluate differences between self-control behaviors under the control of hypothetical and real rewards as well as using a modified discounting procedure that more closely resembles the natural environment than more commonly used procedures. This modified procedure required participants to complete a task in order to earn monetary rewards rather than simply presenting a choice between two alternatives. Each participant was presented with a series of choices between completing two different algebra problems, each associated with a different monetary reward. In Experiment 1, between-subject comparisons used constant monetary rewards. In Experiment 2, between- and within-subject comparisons were made using varied monetary rewards. Subjects were informed of the reward they could earn before being instructed to complete the assessment. The data show a difference in responding by the hypothetical and real rewards groups. Participants earning real rewards were more likely to choose the high effort problem than participants earning hypothetical rewards. Hypothetical rewards are extensively used in lieu of real rewards in research on delay discounting under the assumption that they produce comparable behavior. The results of the current studies, however, suggest caution when using hypothetical rewards.


The Uncertain Future: Amount-Dependent Risk Inherent in Delay

Domain: Basic Research
WOJCIECH BIALASZEK (SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities), Przemyslaw Marcowski (SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities)

The expression that "the future is uncertain", although seemingly obvious, poses an intriguing research question. If the future is indeed uncertain, then how much uncertainty is associated with time? We present a series of experiments performed on undergraduate students. This research was designed to determine: (1) whether there is an amount-dependent relation of delay and probability discounting?; (2) the impact of monetary amount on the quantity of risk inherent in delay, i.e. the uncertainty spontaneously incorporated in delay of gains and losses. To test our hypotheses, we used a traditional discounting paradigm, which employed a titration choice procedure. Additionally, participants answered subjective probability questionnaire across different amounts of gains and losses. We found that the degree of correlation between delay and probability discounting might be amount dependent: positive for small amounts and non-significant for large amounts. Based on this observation, we conducted further experiments demonstrating that the degree of risk inherent in delay is amount-dependent--but only in the domain of gains and not losses. We therefore propose that, at least to some degree, the magnitude effect can be explained by the uncertainty inherent in the delay of future outcomes.

Toward a Method for Measuring the Influence of Multiple Outcomes on Discounting
Domain: Basic Research
DAVID J. COX (University of Florida), Jesse Dallery (University of Florida)
Abstract: Many choices in life involve multiple outcomes which may be delayed, probabilistic, or both. For example, choosing to smoke a cigarette now involves immediate and certain relief from withdrawal as well as delayed and uncertain adverse health outcomes. This research analyzed the effects of a second outcome on a target outcome. For example, one scenario examined the effects of a delayed and probabilistic loss (second outcome) on a choice between an immediate and certain gain versus a delayed and probabilistic gain (target outcome). Participants were randomly assigned to one of four outcome combinations: the influence of a second gain on a target gain, the influence of a loss on a target gain, the influence of a gain on a target loss, and the influence of a second loss on a target loss. We used discounting tasks to measure the delay and probability the subjective value of the undiscounted amount reduced by half (i.e., from $1000 to $500). The procedure yielded parameter estimates for delay (k) and probability (h) discounting. Systematic results were obtained across all four combinations. For similar outcomes (i.e., gain-gain & loss-loss) k and h distributions for the target outcomes decreased with increasing delays and increasing odds against. The reverse pattern was observed across dissimilar outcomes (i.e., gain-loss & loss-gain): k and h distributions increased across increasing delays and increasing odds against. A multiplicative model, in which delay and probability for both outcomes were combined multiplicatively, described the data well. These data suggest the value of delayed and probabilistic hypothetical money is influenced by the relative delay, probability, and type of a second outcome.

Let's Talk About Sex: Sexual Partners Discounting and Relations With Alcohol and Sexual History

Domain: Basic Research
SHEA M. LEMLEY (The University of Kansas), David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas), William Fleming III (University of Kansas)

Delay discounting—devaluation of a commodity as a result of a delay—has provided insight into a range of behavioral problems, from drug addiction to obesity. Individuals discount consumable commodities (e.g., sex, drugs, food) at higher rates than money. Discounting of sexual activity is related to sexual risk behaviors, such as inconsistent condom use; most studies, however, have examined sexual discounting when choices entail activity with the same partner. In a series of studies, college students completed a sexual partners preference assessment and a novel sexual partners discounting task based on the participant's partner rankings. Choices in the discounting task were presented between sex with a less-preferred but immediate partner or sex with the most-preferred but delayed partner across a range of delays. Study one examined discounting of sexual partners, finding orderly discounting across a range of delays and differences based on lifetime number of sexual partners. Study two examined how condom availability impacted sexual partners discounting rate. Study three examined discounting rate and its association with sexual risk behaviors, alcohol use, and sexual history. All findings were statistically significant. Together, these studies demonstrate the potential of the sexual partners discounting task for exploring sexual risk behavior.




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