It's about time: How integral affect increases impatience

Emotion. 2020 Apr;20(3):413-425. doi: 10.1037/emo0000553. Epub 2018 Dec 20.


Affect is integral to most decisions involving temptation. For instance, people may have difficulty saving for a house because they keep spending money on enjoyable, but more immediate items and events (e.g., fancy dinners). Little is known about how affect influences these types of intertemporal decisions. On the one hand, studies investigating the influence of incidental affect (i.e., affect that is unrelated to a decision, such as a person's mood) suggest that positive affect leads to increased impatience. On the other hand, studies on the role of integral affect (i.e., affect that is caused by the decision itself) in risky choice suggest a stronger focus on outcomes, which would result in increased patience. This investigation uses a delay discounting task to test whether integral affect is related to impatient behavior. In addition, it examines how affect impacts time perception. In a within-subjects design, choices between options with relatively affect-rich and relatively affect-poor outcomes were compared. Participants also completed a future time judgment task. Across 2 studies (N = 23 and N = 56), findings consistently showed that positive affect leads to changes in time perception. Participants judged future durations to be longer when considering options associated with high positive affect than when considering options with lower positive affect. In addition, in the second study we found evidence that affect impacts time attribute weighting. Importantly, our results suggest that changes in future time judgment may influence the propensity to make impatient choices without changing discounting per se. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult