Individual differences in delay-discounting correlate with important real world outcomes, for example education, income, drug use, and criminality. As such, delay-discounting has been extensively studied by economists, psychologists and neuroscientists to reveal its behavioral and biological mechanisms in both human and non-human animal models. However, two major methodological differences hinder comparing results across species. Human studies present long time-horizon options verbally, whereas animal studies employ experiential cues and short delays. To bridge these divides, we developed a novel language-free experiential task inspired by animal decision-making studies. We found that the ranks of subjects' time-preferences were reliable across both verbal/experiential and second/day differences. Yet, discount factors scaled dramatically across the tasks, indicating a strong effect of temporal context. Taken together, this indicates that individuals have a stable, but context-dependent, time-preference that can be reliably assessed using different methods, providing a foundation to bridge studies of time-preferences across species.
Lukinova, E., Wang, Y., Lehrer, S. F., & Erlich, J. C. (2019). Time preferences are reliable across time- horizons and verbal versus experiential tasks. eLife, 8, Article e39656. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.39656