Pathological gamblers, with and without substance use disorders, discount delayed rewards at high rates

J Abnorm Psychol. 2001 Aug;110(3):482-7. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.110.3.482.


Pathological gambling is classified as a disorder of impulse control, yet little research has evaluated behavioral indices of impulsivity in gamblers. The rates at which rewards delayed in time are subjectively devalued may be a behavioral marker of impulsivity. This study evaluated delay discounting in 60 pathological gamblers and 26 control participants. Gamblers were divided into those with (n = 21) and without (n = 39) substance use disorders. A hypothetical $1,000 reward was delayed at intervals ranging from 6 hr to 25 years, and immediate rewards varied from $1 to $999. Pathological gamblers discounted delayed rewards at higher rates than control participants, and gamblers with substance use disorders discounted delayed rewards at higher rates than non-substance-abusing gamblers. These data provide further evidence that rapid discounting of delayed rewards may be a feature central to impulse control and addictive disorders, including pathological gambling.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / complications
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*