Steep Discounting of Future Rewards as an Impulsivity Phenotype: A Concise Review

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2020:47:113-138. doi: 10.1007/7854_2020_128.


This chapter provides an overview over the behavioral economic index of impulsivity known as delay discounting. Specifically, delay discounting refers to an individual's preference for smaller immediate rewards over a larger delayed rewards. The more precipitously an individual discounts future rewards, the more impulsive they are considered to be. First, the chapter reviews the nature of delay discounting as a psychological process and juxtaposes it with nominally similar processes, including other facets of impulsivity. Second, the chapter reviews the links between delay discounting and numerous health behaviors, including addiction, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and obesity. Third, the determinants of individual variation in delay discounting are discussed, including both genetic and environmental contributions. Finally, the chapter evaluates delay discounting as a potentially modifiable risk factor and the status of clinical interventions designed to reduce delay discounting to address deficits in self-control in a variety of maladaptive behaviors.

Keywords: Addiction; Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Delay discounting; Impulsivity; Obesity; Substance use disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity*
  • Delay Discounting*
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Phenotype
  • Reward