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 #36
CE Offered: BACB
Advances in Discounting Methods, Understanding, and Analytic Techniques
Saturday, May 25, 2019
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Swissôtel, Concourse Level, Zurich E-G
Area: EAB/BPN; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: David J. Cox (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
Discussant: Suzanne H. Mitchell (Oregon Health & Science University)
CE Instructor: David J. Cox, Ph.D.

Delay and probability discounting refer to the devaluation of an outcome as a function of the delay or probability with which the outcome occurs. Discounting rates inform researchers how people make decisions and have been shown to differ between individuals with unhealthy patterns of behavior and control groups. But, everyday choices are not devoid of context and many questions remain about what choice is sensitive to across contexts. This series of talks examines how discounting can be influenced by one’s previous history and current state of access to the commodity under consideration. In addition, these talks highlight novel discounting methodology and data analytic approaches that may allow researchers to better understand what discounting looks like across different groups. Populations discussed will be women with food insecurities, MTurk participants, and the classic undergraduate student. Topics discussed will be amount/delay sensitivity to alcohol; how the size of one’s bank account and intermixing gains and losses influences discounting; and classic population comparisons in discounting rates. Together, the talks that comprise this symposium highlight advances in: methods for measuring discounting, group differences in discounting, and analytic techniques to understand discounting.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): behavioral economics, behavioral pharmacology, delay discounting, probability discounting
Target Audience:

Graduate students in behavior analysis; Behavior analysts working in feeding; behavior analysts working with substance abuse populations

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to describe the standard methodology for producing discounting data. Participants will be able to describe how discounting differs between clinical and non-clinical populations. Participants will be able to describe how methods for gathering and analyzing data can influence discounting outcomes.

Delay and Probability Discounting for Food and Money Differs in Women With Food Insecurity

LUIS RODRIGUEZ (Idaho State University), Erin B. Rasmussen (Idaho State University), Dante Kyne-Rucker (Idaho State University), Maria Wong (Idaho State University), Katie Martin (Idaho State University)

Food insecurity, or inconsistent access to foods that meet nutritional needs, has been linked to delay discounting for money, a behavioral measure of impulsivity. The purpose of the present study was to examine differences in delay and probability discounting for food and money outcomes in women with varying levels of food insecurity. Ninety-two women were recruited from a community sample. Participants completed delay and probability discounting tasks for food and money, food security measures, and measures of demographic and health-related variables. Results revealed that food insecure individuals showed significantly higher rates of delay discounting for both food and money compared to food secure individuals. No significant differences were found with probability discounting. These results indicate food insecure individuals are relatively more impulsive for food and money than those of food secure status but not necessarily different in risk-taking. In addition, impulsive behavior may be an underlying mechanism of obesity-related health outcomes in food insecure populations.

Gain-Loss Sequence Effects and Asymmetry in Delay and Probability Discounting
GIDEON NAUDE (University of Kansas), Allyson R Salzer (University of Kansas), Derek D. Reed (University of Kansas)
Abstract: The sign effect is a well-documented phenomenon that describes the tendency for individuals to differentially discount gains and losses. In the present investigation, we examined the effects of temporal sequencing on delayed and probabilistic monetary gains and losses to determine whether differences occurred when either gains or losses were assessed first, following a loss, or following a gain. Participants (N = 486) recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk completed either two delay or two probability discounting assessments, counterbalanced across temporal and sign sequences. Regression suggested sequence significantly impacted rates of discounting for delayed and probabilistic gains and modulated magnitude effects across both gains and losses. These results add to the growing literature on gain-loss asymmetry and may inform methods of gathering delay and probability discounting data.

On the Differential Discounting of Money and Alcohol in College Students: Effects of Reward Magnitude and Delay

STEFANIE S. STANCATO (University of Kansas), Ale Carrillo (The University of Kansas), David P. Jarmolowicz (The University of Kansas)

Heavy alcohol use on college campuses is a major concern, as it can result in academic problems, assault, alcohol use disorders, and death. One hallmark of excessive drinking is elevated discounting rates of alcohol compared to money. Differences in discounting rates could be due to differences in sensitivity to magnitude of rewards and/or delay. Recent analytic techniques may provide a better understanding of these behavioral mechanisms, and their effects on choice. We used the multilevel modeling technique to evaluate discounting of alcohol and money with undergraduate college students. This approach examines group and individual discounting rates simultaneously using a multilevel logistic regression and nonlinear models. It has been recommended for use, as it is sensitive to magnitudes of reward and relative delay, which are considered separate contributors to choice. We found subjects had differential sensitivity to reward magnitude and delay when discounting of alcohol compared to money. Findings suggest these analytic techniques may lead to the enhanced understanding of these behavioral processes needed to successfully target and decrease alcohol consumption on college campuses.


Effects of Economic Context in Discounting

MOLLY A BARLOW (University of Florida), David Cox (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), Jesse Dallery (University of Florida)

Previous studies have investigated how drastic changes to income influence delay discounting (e.g. Bickel et al., 2016). Additionally, while researchers have investigated how choices change as a function of the absolute magnitude of an outcome (e.g. Green et al., 1999), no studies have investigated how choices change as a function of magnitude relative to the amount in a participant’s bank. We investigated how endowing participants with a bank of varying amounts influenced choice within delay discounting tasks. 60 undergraduate psychology students completed 4 delay discounting tasks. Each task presented one of two different amounts for the delayed choice alternative (i.e., $3000 and $500,000). In addition, each task presented one of two relative bank amounts (i.e., 1/4 or 4 times the delayed amount). Discounting of the delayed amount was significantly greater when the bank amount was smaller than the delayed amount (e.g. $750 bank; $3,000 delayed amount) only in the small delayed amount ($3,000) condition. When the delayed outcome magnitude was large ($500,000), the bank amount did not have a statistically significant effect on discounting. Our results suggest contrived economic context influences participants’ choices under conditions in which an outcome is delayed.




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