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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #72
Discounting of Delayed and Probabilistic Rewards: From Basic Research to Applications
Saturday, May 24, 2014
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
W175c (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EAB/DDA; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Nathan Call (Marcus Autism Center)
Discussant: Amy Odum (Utah State University)

Individuals tend to discount the value of outcomes as a result of the probability it will occur or the delay until it does. Quantitative models for measuring the degree to which probability and delay affect such discounting have been developed and examined by many researchers. However, although probability and delay discounting are becoming well understood phenomena, there is still much about them that can be learned. This symposium will present some of the most recent research on the topic of discounting that spans from basic research, to translational findings, to applications, including: Recent work examining how the discounting of outcomes that are both delayed and probabalistic; results from a study demonstrating that individuals may differ in how individuals vary in how they value delayed gains versus delayed losses; two experiments examining the generality of delay discounting in smokers across commodities; and a series of studies that have applied delay discounting methods and to study how parents discount the value of treatment outcomes for their children with developmental disabilities as a result of delays to those outcomes.

Keyword(s): Delay discounting, Probability discounting, Translational research
Discounting of a Monetary Reward that is Both Delayed and Probabilistic
Ariana Mae Vanderveldt (Washington University in St. Louis), LEONARD GREEN (Washington University), Joel Myerson (Washington University)
Abstract: The value of an outcome is affected both by the delay until its receipt (delay discounting) and by the likelihood of its receipt (probability discounting). Despite being well-described by the same hyperboloid function, delay and probability discounting involve fundamentally different processes. Previous research has focused on the discounting of delayed and probabilistic rewards separately, with little research examining more complex situations in which rewards are both delayed and probabilistic. In the current work, participants made choices between smaller rewards that were both immediate and certain and larger rewards that were both delayed and probabilistic. We found significant interactions between delay and probability, a result inconsistent with an additive model. In contrast, a hyperboloid discounting model in which delay and probability combine multiplicatively provided an excellent fit to the data. These results suggest that the hyperboloid is a good descriptor of decision making in complicated monetary choice situations like those people encounter in everyday life.
Discounting of Delayed Gains and Losses: Evidence for an Anomalous Group of Debt-Averse Individuals
JOEL MYERSON (Washington University), Ana A. Baumann (Washington University in St. Louis), Leonard Green (Washington University)
Abstract: Participants recruited using MTurk completed Kirby’s questionnaire, which involves choices between an immediate gain and a larger delayed gain, and an analogous new questionnaire that we developed, which involves choices between an immediate payment and a larger, but delayed payment. Consistent amount effects were observed for delayed gains, but not for delayed losses, replicating previous findings and providing validation of our new questionnaire for measuring discounting of delayed losses. As expected, the overall likelihood of choosing the larger payment increased as the delay to when that payment had to be made increased. Interestingly, however, there was a group of participants who became less, rather than more, likely to choose to pay later when the delay was longer. These people may be characterized as debt averse, in that owing money for a shorter period appears to be preferable to a longer period of debt. Taken together, these results suggest that in the case of delayed gains, people differ only quantitatively (i.e., in their willingness to wait for larger rewards), whereas in the case of delayed losses, the existence of an anomalous group of debt-averse individuals indicates that people differ qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

The Generality of Steep Discounting in Smokers

JONATHAN E. FRIEDEL (Utah State University), William DeHart (Utah State University), Gregory J. Madden (Utah State University), Amy Odum (Utah State University)

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. Higher degrees of impulsivity are one personality factor that is frequently associated with smoking and delay discounting is one measure of impulsive behavior. The generality of higher degrees of impulsivity, or steeper discounting, is less well known. This paper will address the generality of steeper discounting in smokers when compared to non-smokers. Two experiments will be discussed. The first experiment compares the rate of discounting across several commodities (money, alcohol, entertainment, and food) between smokers and non-smokers. Differences between groups will be discussed as well as correlations within groups. The second experiment compares delayed health outcomes in smokers and non-smokers to address methodological issues in prior studies and to try and determine what differences exist between the two groups. Implications and future directions will also be discussed.

Discounting of the Results of Treatments by Caregivers of Children with Autism as a Result of Delay to Treatment Outcome
NATHAN CALL (Marcus Autism Center), Andrea R. Reavis (Marcus Autism Center), Addie F. Andrus Findley (Marcus Autism Center)
Abstract: A variety of factors influence the choices caregivers of children with autism make about interventions. This talk will present data from a series of studies that examined the manner in which delays to treatment outcomes may contribute to caregivers discounting the value of ABA-based interventions. Eighteen caregivers of individuals with autism served as participants. Each completed two delay discounting assessments based on procedures described by Dixon, Marley, and Jacobs (2003) and Odum, Madden, and Bickel (2002). One assessment evaluated the extent to which participants discounted delayed hypothetical monetary outcomes. The other assessment evaluated the extent to which participants discounted delayed outcomes of autism interventions. Results showed that caregivers discounted the value of both types of delayed outcome (i.e., money and autism treatment), although the results of the two assessments was not significantly correlated. In addition, discounting rates varied depending on the types of treatment goals caregivers reported for their children. That is, those who identified reducing problem behavior as their treatment goal showed greater discounting of delayed treatment outcomes than did caregivers of children who indicated that increasing skills was their priority. Results of subsequent attempts to convert this methodology to an abbreviated assessment will also be discussed.



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