Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #464
Delay Discounting of Sexual Outcomes
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
609 (Convention Center)
Area: EAB/CBM; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Steven R. Lawyer (Idaho State University)
Discussant: Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)

Discounting, a behavioral measure of impulsive choice, is associated with a variety of social health phenomena (e.g., substance abuse), but relatively little empirical attention has been focused on the examination of discounting in relation to sexual decisions and outcomes. In spite of the clear relevance of discounting to sexual decisions that lead to long-term poor health outcomes (e.g., sexually transmitted infections), only2 studies to date have been published specifically examining discounting of sexual outcomes (Lawyer, et al., 2008, 2010). This symposium comprises3 research studies that significantly extend the nascent focus on discounting for sexual outcomes. David Jarmalowicz, et al. will present data examining the cross-commodity discounting of sexual and monetary outcomes in cocaine addicts that speak to the commodity-specific discounting rates in this sample. Frederick Schoepflin and Steven R. Lawyer will examine the impact of exposure to sexual cues in the laboratory on discounting for sexual versus monetary outcomes. Matthew Johnson will examine how discounting for sexual and monetary outcomes is related to real-world sexual risk behavior in cocaine addicts. This symposium highlights the importance of translational research for bridging basic laboratory-behavioral research and real-world social health phenomena. Dr. Derek Reed, a respected discounting researcher, will serve as discussant.


Single and Cross Commodity Discounting of Money and Sex in Cocaine Addicts

DAVID P. JARMOLOWICZ (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute), Warren K. Bickel (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute), Darren R. Christensen (University of Melbourne, Australia), Reid D. Landes (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), Lisa Jackson (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), Brian Jones (Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute)

Choice procedures examining the discounting of delayed reinforcers provide insight into individuals' valuation of various commodities. For example, cocaine users discount cocaine more rapidly than money (e.g., Bickel et al., 2011). Because cocaine users also engage in risky sexual behaviors, they may also disproportionately discount delayed sexual encounters. Although such between-commodity comparisons highlight the relative rates of discounting for each commodity, little is known about the mechanisms driving these differing discounting rates. For instance, are drug reinforcers rapidly discounted because they quickly loose their value, or are immediate drugs disproportionately valuable? This study of 25 treatment-seeking cocaine addicts analyzed delay discounting of2 commodities (equated amounts of sex and money); specifically between sex now vs. sex later (S-S), money now vs. money later (M-M), sex now vs. money later (S-M), and money now vs. sex later (M-S). Changes in the delayed commodity resulted in large and significant changes in discounting rates, whereas changes in the immediate commodity resulted in small nonsignificant changes. These findings suggest that cocaine addicts not only discount sexual encounters more rapidly than money, but also that this differential discounting may occur because sexual encounters are rapidly devalued.


Sexual Discounting: Relationship to Real World Sexual Risk Behavior

MATTHEW W. JOHNSON (Johns Hopkins University)

Cocaine dependence is associated with high rates of sexual risk behavior and HIV infection; however, little is known regarding responsible behavioral mechanisms. Cocaine-dependent individuals (N = 62) completed the Sexual Discounting Task assessing decisions between immediate unprotected sex and delayed sex with a condom across4 hypothetical partners: most (and least) likely to have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and most (and least) sexually desirable. Participants also completed a real rewards money delay-discounting task, and the HIV Risk-Taking Behavior Scale (HRBS), which included a subscale of self-reported sexual risk behavior. Sexual discounting (preference for immediate unprotected sex) was significantly greater when making responses for partners judged least (compared to most) likely to have an STI, and for partners judged most (compared to least) desirable. Greater self-reported sexual risk behavior on the HRBS was significantly associated with greater sexual discounting in3 of the4 sexual discounting partner conditions (with the exception being the most desirable partner condition). However, sexual risk was not significantly correlated with money discounting, suggesting domain specificity. Results suggest that delay discounting may be a behavioral mechanism accounting for the high rates of sexual risk and HIV acquisition in cocaine dependence.

Effects of Priming on Delay Discounting for Sexual and Monetary Outcomes
FREDERICK SCHOEPFLIN (Idaho State University), Steven R. Lawyer (Idaho State University)
Abstract: Delay discounting is the preference smaller immediate outcomes over larger delayed ones and is associated with impulsive choice. Discounting is typically measured by posing a series of choices between different amounts of immediate vs. delayed monetary outcomes, but can include other types of outcomes. Few studies have examined transient environmental factors that influence discounting decisions, but previous research (e.g., Wilson & Daly, 2004) has suggested that mens’ delay discounting for money is affected by viewing pictures of attractive women. The current study aims to replicate and extend these findings by measuring discounting behavior for hypothetical monetary and sexual outcomes before and after being primed with sexual, exciting (non-sexual), or neutral pictures from the International Affective Pictures System. Study hypotheses were that participants who viewed sexual pictures would show increased rates of discounting for both sexual and monetary outcomes, but that the effect would be significantly more pronounced in the sexual outcomes discounting task. Data collection is ongoing, but preliminary data (N = 56) suggest a possible effect for condition, in which men exposed to sexual pictures are actually make less impulsive decisions for both money and sexual activity by comparison to the other conditions. Relevance to research concerning discounting and sexual decision-making will be discussed.



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