Journal of Behavioral Decision Making

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Volume 32 Issue 4 (October 2019), Pages 373-503

Age‐related differences in delay discounting: Immediate reward, reward magnitude, and social influence (pages 471-484)

Abstract Delay discounting refers to the tendency of individuals to subjectively devalue rewards that are to be received in the future, with high rates of delay discounting being associated with a variety of maladaptive life outcomes (e.g., unhealthy dietary and exercise behaviors). The current study explored the psychological and social processes involved in adult age‐related differences in delay discounting of monetary rewards. Younger adults exhibited higher levels of delay discounting than older adults. This increased level of patience in older adults was found whether smaller‐sooner rewards were to be received immediately or in the future. However, there was an interaction with reward magnitude, whereby younger adults exhibited higher levels of delay discounting for smaller reward magnitudes but not larger reward magnitudes. Social influence on delay discounting was investigated by having participants complete three phases of the delay‐discounting task: an individual precollaboration phase, a collaboration phase in age‐group‐matched dyads, and an individual postcollaboration phase. A convergence effect was observed in that dyad members' postcollaboration choices were significantly more similar compared to their baseline choices during the precollaboration phase. Moreover, levels of convergence were comparable between younger and older adults, suggesting age invariance in social influence on delay discounting. The current results demonstrate a degree of malleability in delay discounting that extends into older adulthood, making interventions targeting the construct a promising avenue for future research.

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