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Time preferences are reliable across time- horizons and verbal versus experiential tasks

Lukinova, Evgeniya; Wang, Yuyue; Lehrer, Steven F.; Erlich, Jeffrey C.


Yuyue Wang

Steven F. Lehrer

Jeffrey C. Erlich


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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 16, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 5, 2019
Publication Date Feb 5, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 31, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 1, 2022
Journal eLife
Electronic ISSN 2050-084X
Publisher eLife Sciences Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Article Number e39656
Public URL
Publisher URL


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