The Effects of Cueing Episodic Future Thinking on Delay Discounting in Children, Adolescents, and Adults

Patrick Burns, Cristina Atance, Patrick A. O'Connor, Teresa McCormack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Discounting the value of delayed rewards such that even a relatively small, immediately available reward is preferred to a larger delayed reward is a commonly observed human trait. Children are particularly steep discounters of delayed rewards as evidenced by delay of gratification studies. In recent years, however, a growing literature indicates that cueing individuals to imagine personal future events attenuates their discounting of delayed rewards. The present studies extend this literature by examining whether cueing future thinking promotes patient choices in children and adolescents. In Experiment 1 we found that cueing future thinking had no effect on 8-11-year-olds’ (n = 177) delay discounting of either real or hypothetical rewards. In Experiment 2 we found that cueing adolescents (12-14-year-olds, n = 126) and adults (n = 122) to think about personal future events decreased their discounting of delayed rewards relative to three other conditions: a no cue control, an episodic memory condition and a novel ‘future other’ condition in which individuals imagine future events that might happen to a significant other person in their life. Cueing adults and adolescents to think about personal future events did not however affect how connected they felt to their future selves or their subjective sense of how close future time points felt to them – two constructs that have previously been shown to be related to delay discounting.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognition
Publication statusAccepted - 05 Oct 2021

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