Cuing both positive and negative episodic foresight reduces delay discounting but does not affect risk taking

Adam Bulley, Beyon Miloyan, Gillian V Pepper, Matthew J Gullo, Julie D Henry, Thomas Suddendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
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Humans frequently create mental models of the future, allowing outcomes to be inferred in advance of their occurrence. Recent evidence suggests that imagining positive future events reduces delay discounting (the devaluation of reward with time until its receipt), while imagining negative future events may increase it. Here, using a sample of 297 participants, we experimentally assess the effects of cued episodic simulation of positive and negative future scenarios on decision-making in the context of both delay discounting (monetary choice questionnaire) and risk-taking (balloon-analogue risk task). Participants discounted the future less when cued to imagine positive and negative future scenarios than they did when cued to engage in control neutral imagery. There were no effects of experimental condition on risk-taking. Thus, although these results replicate previous findings suggesting episodic future simulation can reduce delay discounting, they indicate that this effect is not dependent on the valence of the thoughts, and does not generalise to all other forms of “impulsive” decision-making. We discuss various interpretations of these results, and suggest avenues for further research on the role of prospection in decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2017
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
Issue number8
Early online date23 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


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