Delay discounting: I'm a k, you're a k

J Exp Anal Behav. 2011 Nov;96(3):427-39. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2011.96-423.


Delay discounting is the decline in the present value of a reward with delay to its receipt. Across a variety of species, populations, and reward types, value declines hyperbolically with delay. Value declines steeply with shorter delays, but more shallowly with longer delays. Quantitative modeling provides precise measures to characterize the form of the discount function. These measures may be regarded as higher-order dependent variables, intervening variables, or hypothetical constructs. I suggest the degree of delay discounting may be a personality trait. In the end, the ontological status of measures of delay discounting is irrelevant. Whatever delay discounting may be, its study has provided the field of behavior analysis and other areas measures with robust generality and predictive validity for a variety of significant human problems. Research on moderating the degree of delay discounting has the potential to produce substantial societal benefits.

Keywords: delay discounting; human; impulsivity; pigeon; rat; review; self control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personality
  • Reward*
  • Time Factors