Evaluating the Effect of Delay Spacing on Delay Discounting: Carry-Over Effects on Steepness and the Form of the Discounting Function

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior






Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

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Most delay discounting studies use tasks that arrange delay progressions in which the spacing between consecutive delays becomes progressively larger. To date, little research has examined delay discounting using other progressions. The present study assessed whether the form or steepness of discounting varied across different delay progressions. Human participants completed three discounting tasks with delay progressions that varied in the time between consecutive delays: a standard (increasing duration between delays), linear (equal duration between delays), and an inverse progression (decreasing duration between delays). Steepness of discounting was generally reduced, and remained so, following experience with the inverse progression. Effects of the delay progression on the best fitting equation were order-dependent. Overall the hyperbola model provided better fits, but the exponential model performed better with data from the inverse progression. Regardless, differences in which model fit best were often small. The finding that the best fitting model was dependent, in some cases, on the delay progression suggests that a single quantitative model of discounting may not be applicable to describe discounting across all procedural contexts. Ultimately, changes in steepness of discounting following experience with the inverse progression appeared similar to anchoring effects, whose mechanism will require further study to delineate.