Four converging measures of temporal discounting and their relationships with intelligence, executive functions, thinking dispositions, and behavioral outcomes

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Abstract

Temporal discounting is the tendency to devalue temporally distant rewards. Past studies have examined the k-value, the indifference point, and the area under the curve as dependent measures on this task. The current study included these three measures and a fourth measure, called the interest rate total score, which differentiated good from poor choices. The interest rate total score was based on scoring only those items in which the delayed choice should be preferred given the expected return based on simple interest rates. In addition, associations with several individual difference measures were examined including intelligence, executive functions (inhibition, working memory, and set-shifting), thinking dispositions [Need for Cognition and Consideration of Future Consequences (CFCs)] and engagement in substance use and gambling behavior. A staircase temporal discounting task was examined in a sample of 99 university students. Replicating previous studies, temporal discounting increased with longer delays to reward and decreased with higher reward magnitudes. A hyperbolic function accounted for more variance in temporal discounting than an exponential function. Reaction time at the indifference point was significantly longer than at the other choice points. The four dependent measures of temporal discounting were all significantly correlated and were also significantly associated with our individual difference measures. That is, the tendency to wait for a larger delayed reward on all of the temporal discounting measures was associated with higher intelligence, higher executive functions, and more CFCs. Associations between our measures of temporal discounting and outcomes related to substance use and gambling behavior were modest in our university sample.

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Basile, A. G., & Toplak, M. E. (2015). Four converging measures of temporal discounting and their relationships with intelligence, executive functions, thinking dispositions, and behavioral outcomes. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(JUN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00728

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