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.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #108
Theoretical and Empirical Advances in Social Discounting Toward Societal Change
Saturday, May 25, 2019
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Swissôtel, Concourse Level, Zurich E-G
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Natalie Buddiga (University of Nevada, Reno)
Discussant: Erin B. Rasmussen (Idaho State University)
Abstract: Discounting rates inform researchers on how individuals make decisions across various choice contexts by analyzing changes in choice when those contexts are parametrically titrated along various dimensions. While many theoretical and empirical questions remain, social discounting (i.e., how the subjective value of another person receiving a reward over oneself decreases as the social distance to that person increases) may be a particularly important interbehavioral process to understand when considering how to increase patterns of prosocial behavior at the level of social policy. The present series of talks will examine manipulations of social discounting tasks that can enhance understanding of altruistic decision-making, as well as relations between social discounting and other forms of discounting (i.e., delay and probability discounting), commodity valuation, and drug effects. Evidence from these studies elucidate avenues for studying new niches of social behavior and suggest pathways for policy changes toward increased social cohesion, cultural competency, and lasting patterns of altruistic behavior.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): altruism, social discounting

Reciprocal Discounting: Investigating the Relationship Between Social Discounting and Perceived Reciprocation From Others

NATALIE BUDDIGA (University of Nevada, Reno), Matt Locey (University of Nevada, Reno)

Discount functions indicate how the value of a reward decreases with changes in some other variable. In the case of probability discounting, value decreases with decreases in the probability of receiving the reward. Whereas with social discounting, value decreases with increases in the social distance of the person receiving that reward. A weak correlation has been found between probability and social discounting – potentially due to how increases in social distance track decreases in the probability of reciprocation (from that socially distant individual). The current study aimed to better explore this relationship through comparing performance on three questionnaires: standard social and probability discounting questionnaires and a novel reciprocal social discounting questionnaire. The reciprocal social discounting questionnaire asks the participant to infer what monetary amounts they believe an individual at a particular social distance would forgo for them, the participant (e.g. “Which would Person 1 prefer: $75 for themselves OR $75 for you?). Results from 55 participants indicate a closer correspondence between reciprocal and standard social discounting than either other pair of discounting questionnaires. These results inform a potential relationship between measures of perceived reciprocation and an individual’s social discount rate.

Social Discounting in Pairs of People at Different Social Positions Respecting the Choosing Individual
ALDO TOLEDO (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Raul Avila (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
Abstract: Social discounting refers to the decrease in the willingness of an individual to give a reward to another person as the social distance between them increases. As a parametric extension for social discounting, we exposed a person to choose a given amount of money to one of two persons who were at different social distances from each other and from the choosing person. In a first experiment, 117 participants were exposed to four conditions of a social-discounting task which consisted of series of choices between a smaller reward for a socially closer person and a larger reward for a socially farther person. The social distance between both persons, as well as that between the participant and the closer person, was manipulated within and between conditions, respectively. Results showed that participants were less willing to give the reward to the farther person as the social distance between the nearer and the farther persons increased. Other experiments are in progress and test the reliability of the latter findings. This research extend the study of social discounting and suggest that altruistic and selfish behaviors are relative, depending on the social distance maintained among the choosing individual and other potential receivers.
Psilocybin and Social Behavior
DAVID J. COX (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Roland R. Griffiths (Johns Hopkins University - School of Medicine), Matthew W. Johnson (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
Abstract: Psilocybin has shown to increase social cooperation in an Ultimatum Game and empathy for social partners. Unexamined is whether psilocybin impacts social discounting or responding in a Prisoner’s Dilemma game, and how enduring any changes might be. We administered psilocybin to participants (N = 75) who also started a program of meditation/spiritual practices. Healthy participants were randomized to three groups (25 each): (1) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with high-support for spiritual practice; (2) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with moderate-level (“standard”) support for spiritual practice; and (3) very low-dose (1 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2) with standard-support for spiritual practice. Psilocybin was administered double-blind and instructions to participants/staff minimized expectancy confounds. Participants completed social and monetary discounting tasks, and an iterative Prisoner’s Dilemma game at baseline and at 6-months follow-up. Monetary delay discounting did not differ from baseline at 6-month follow-up. Social discounting AUC and cooperation in the Prisoner’s Dilemma game increased between baseline and follow-up for all three groups, but did not differ among the groups. Psilocybin and/or spiritual practice may occasion enduring increases in prosocial behavior.
Discounting, Guns, and Money: Relations Between Social Discounting, Delay Discounting, and Commodity Valuation
WILL FLEMING (University of Nevada, Reno), Matt Locey (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Considering that both social discounting and psychological flexibility have been found to be positively correlated with delay discounting, interpersonal processes may function as pathways toward patterns of self-control. Individuals who steeply discount certain commodities—such as money—when delay to their receipt is increased often also demonstrate higher valuation for other, ‘addictive’ commodities and activities, such as opioids, methamphetamines, and gambling. However, the extent to which social discounting predicts valuation of such commodities remains unclear. The purpose of this Amazon MTurk study sought to examine (1) relations between delay discounting and social discounting using various social discounting tasks, including an adjusting-amount across social distances tasks, an amended monetary-choice questionnaire, and a novel slider response task, and (2) relations between discounting and food, alcohol, and firearm valuation using similar adjusting-amount across magnitudes tasks. Relations between these measures and psychological flexibility, political leanings, and demographic variables were also assessed. Findings from this study suggest differential predictive utilities of different social discounting tasks, differences between commodities related to social and delay discounting, a general decreasing function of commodity valuation as the magnitude of alternatives is increased, and various aims for directing commodity acquisition that may be feasible at the level of group-level interventions and social policy.



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