Discounting of food, sex, and money

Psychon Bull Rev. 2014 Jun;21(3):794-802. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0557-2.


Discounting is a useful framework for understanding choice involving a range of delayed and probabilistic outcomes (e.g., money, food, drugs), but relatively few studies have examined how people discount other commodities (e.g., entertainment, sex). Using a novel discounting task, where the length of a line represented the value of an outcome and was adjusted using a staircase procedure, we replicated previous findings showing that individuals discount delayed and probabilistic outcomes in a manner well described by a hyperbola-like function. In addition, we found strong positive correlations between discounting rates of delayed, but not probabilistic, outcomes. This suggests that discounting of delayed outcomes may be relatively predictable across outcome types but that discounting of probabilistic outcomes may depend more on specific contexts. The generality of delay discounting and potential context dependence of probability discounting may provide important information regarding factors contributing to choice behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Delay Discounting / physiology
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Probability*
  • Random Allocation
  • Reward*
  • Sex
  • Young Adult