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.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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Symposium #320
Delay Discounting and its Repair: Methodological Issues and Extension
Sunday, May 28, 2017
5:00 PM–6:50 PM
Hyatt Regency, Centennial Ballroom B/C
Area: EAB/BPN; Domain: Translational
Chair: Michael Sofis (The University of Kansas)
Discussant: David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas)

Reinforcers tend to systematically lose their value as the delay to their receipt increases - a process often called delay discounting. Because this devaluation process is particularly pronounced in clinical populations (e.g., substance abusers, obese individuals, problem gamblers) and the rapidity of delay discounting can predict treatment outcomes, considerable attention has been devoted to decreasing discounting rates. Although approaches such as framing (e.g., providing explicit dates or explicitly stating that choice of a reinforcer at one point precludes receiving it at another point) and delay training (i.e., providing histories of responding for delayed reinforcers) show promise the generality of these effects is unknown. The present symposium examined two challenges to the generality of these findings: their systematic replication, and the exclusion of non-systematic data.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): Delay discounting, delay training, framing, nonsystematic data

Can Temporal Discounting be Faked?

(Basic Research)
DAVID MATTHEW COLE (Utah State University), Jillian Rung (Utah State University), Gregory J. Madden (Utah State University)

People who steeply discount the future suffer higher rates of drug dependence, obesity, debt, and psychiatric disorder. Because steep temporal discounting precedes and predicts onset maladies like drug abuse, assessing discounting in clinical settings could improve prevention (e.g., identifying at-risk youth) and treatment (e.g., predicting relapse risk). Before crossing from laboratory to clinic, however, clinicians must know if temporal discounting can be faked by test takers motivated to respond deceptively (e.g., to avoid treatment). We measured, for the first time, the susceptibility of discounting assessments to deception. We adopted a common approach for measuring deception in psychological assessment, an analogue simulation design in which participants are given (a) standard instructions, (b) instructions to fake good (i.e., simulate better versions of themselves), or (c) instructions to fake bad. Significant findings revealed weaknesses of typical discounting assessments that should be addressed if these assessments are to have practical utility. Nonsignificant findings tentatively supported the use of discounting assessments in their current form.


A Meta-Analysis of Nonsystematic Responding in Delay and Probability Discounting

(Basic Research)
STEVEN R. LAWYER (Idaho State University), Kathleen Smith (Idaho State University)

Delay discounting (DD) and Probability Discounting (PD) are behavioral measures of impulsive choice. Discounting patterns tend to be predictable, where immediate (or certain) rewards are valued more than relatively delayed (or uncertain) rewards in a systematic way. However, some participants exhibit nonsystematic response patterns (NSR) that diverge from general expectations, which could have implications for the validity of discounting-related experiments. We meta-analyzed the findings from 114 discounting studies (from 78 total papers) that reported using Johnson and Bickels (2008) algorithms for identifying NSR and examined (1) the frequency of NSR patterns across studies; and (2) potential methodological factors that contribute to increased or decreased frequencies of nonsystematic responding. The overall frequency of NSR across DD and PD studies was 18% and 19%, respectively. Non-monetary outcomes (e.g., drugs, food, sex) yielded more NSR patterns (21%) than did discounting for monetary outcomes (16%; Q(1) = 3.87, p = .049). Our review indicates also that researchers are inconsistent in whether or how they report NSR in discounting studies, which is relevant for a clearer understanding of the behavioral mechanisms that underlie impulsive choice. We make several recommendations regarding the assessment of NSR in discounting research.


Rate Dependent Effects of Delay Framing and Hidden Zero Manipulations in the Monetary Choice Questionnaire

(Basic Research)
GIDEON NAUDE (University of Kansas), Derek D. Reed (The University of Kansas), Amy J. Henley (The University of Kansas), Brent Kaplan (The University of Kansas), Florence D. DiGennaro Reed (University of Kansas)

Temporal discounting is a behavioral process wherein positive outcomes are devalued as a function of delay. Recent research suggests that the framing of the delay (i.e., in days or dates) can modulate the degree to which human subjects discount the delayed outcome. Another framing effect involves the manner in which binary intertemporal choices are presented as discrete decisions or part of an extended sequence; specifically, explicitly stating that choosing a smaller-sooner reward is mutually exclusive to a later reward delivery (revealing a hidden zero), or implicitly implying so (keeping the zero hidden). The present study used an online-crowdsourced subject pool (mTurk; n=190) to assess delay discounting using a standard discounting task (Monetary Choice Questionnaire). Discounting was later assessed using the same task in a 2 (delay framing) by 2 (zero framing) design. Multiple regression suggested a main effect of delay framing after accounting for other demographic variables and manipulations, as well as a significant contribution of initial rate of discounting based on the standard Monetary Choice Questionnaire.

Experimentally Manipulating Impulsive Choice in Rats
(Basic Research)
RENEE RENDA (Utah State University), Gregory J. Madden (Utah State University)
Abstract: Delay discounting describes the subjective devaluation of delayed outcomes. Excessive delay discounting is observed in many maladaptive behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, gambling), and interventions designed to reduce discounting may result in therapeutic gains. Several human and nonhuman studies have shown that discounting can be reduced. For instance, Stein et al. (2013) exposed two groups of rats to 120 sessions in which lever pressing resulted in an immediate (immediacy-exposure group) or a delayed (delay-exposure group) food reward. Following training, delay-exposed rats made fewer impulsive choices than immediacy-exposed rats. The present research sought to replicate and extend those findings. The purpose of our first study was to determine if delay-exposure training decreases impulsive choice or if immediacy-exposure training increases impulsive choice. The relative effects of delay- and immediacy-exposure training on impulsive choice were compared to a control group that did not receive training. Preliminary data suggest that delay-exposure training reduces impulsive choice (Panel A). The purpose of our second study was to determine the minimum number of training sessions required to produce a between-group difference in impulsive choice. The duration of delay- and immediacy-exposure training was parametrically manipulated across groups. Preliminary data suggest that 30 training sessions may be sufficient (Panel B).



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