A 5-Trial Adjusting Delay Discounting Task: Accurate Discount Rates in Less Than One Minute

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Abstract

Individuals who discount delayed rewards at a high rate are more likely to engage in substance abuse, overeating, or problem gambling. Such findings suggest the value of methods to obtain an accurate and fast measurement of discount rate that can be easily deployed in variety of settings. In the present study, we developed and evaluated the 5-trial adjusting delay task, a novel method of obtaining a discount rate in less than 1 min. We hypothesized that discount rates from the 5-trial adjusting delay task would be similar and would correlate with discount rates from a lengthier task we have used previously, and that 4 known effects relating to delay discounting would be replicable with this novel task. To test these hypotheses, the 5-trial adjusting delay task was administered to 111 college students 6 times to obtain discount rates for 6 different commodities, along with a lengthier adjusting amount discounting task. We found that discount rates were similar and correlated between the 5-trial adjusting delay task and the adjusting amount task. Each of the 4 known effects relating to delay discounting was replicated with the 5-trial adjusting delay task to varying degrees. First, discount rates were inversely correlated with amount. Second, discount rates between past and future outcomes were correlated. Third, discount rates were greater for consumable rewards than with money, although we did not control for amount in this comparison. Fourth, discount rates were lower when $0 amounts opposing the chosen time point were explicitly described. Results indicate that the 5-trial adjusting delay task is a viable, rapid method to assess discount rate.

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