Delay discounting of real and hypothetical rewards

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2003 May;11(2):139-45. doi: 10.1037/1064-1297.11.2.139.


The degree to which real and hypothetical rewards were discounted across delays ranging from 6 hr to 1 year was explored in a within-subjects design. An adjusting-amounts procedure was used to estimate the subjective value of real and hypothetical rewards at each delay. A hyperbolic discounting function provided a significantly better fit to individual participants' preferences than did an exponential function. No significant effect of reward type on degree of hyperbolic discounting or area under the discounting curves was detected. These findings offer some support for the validity of using hypothetical rewards to estimate discounting rates in substance-abusing and other populations, but caution is suggested because this support is gleaned from a failure to detect an effect of reward type.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reinforcement Schedule*
  • Reward*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Factors