Money earlier or later? Simple heuristics explain intertemporal choices better than delay discounting does

Psychol Sci. 2015 Jun;26(6):826-33. doi: 10.1177/0956797615572232. Epub 2015 Apr 24.


Heuristic models have been proposed for many domains involving choice. We conducted an out-of-sample, cross-validated comparison of heuristic models of intertemporal choice (which can account for many of the known intertemporal choice anomalies) and discounting models. Heuristic models outperformed traditional utility-discounting models, including models of exponential and hyperbolic discounting. The best-performing models predicted choices by using a weighted average of absolute differences and relative percentage differences of the attributes of the goods in a choice set. We concluded that heuristic models explain time-money trade-off choices in experiments better than do utility-discounting models.

Keywords: decision making; delay of gratification; heuristics; judgment; open data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delay Discounting*
  • Heuristics*
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Reward*
  • Time Factors