Future Rice Is Discounted Less Steeply Than Future Money in Thailand

By Takahashi, Masaharu; Masataka, Nobuo et al. | The Psychological Record, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Future Rice Is Discounted Less Steeply Than Future Money in Thailand


Takahashi, Masaharu, Masataka, Nobuo, Malaivijitnond, Suchinda, Wongsiri, Siriwat, The Psychological Record


In choosing long-term and short-term alternatives, people frequently weigh the value of immediate rewards more heavily than the value of delayed rewards (Green, Myerson, Lichtman, Rosen, & Fry, 1996). This phenomenon can be viewed as a process in which the subjective value of a reward decreases with time to its receipt. This change in the value of a reward as a function of its temporal proximity is termed temporal discounting (Green, Fry, and Myerson, 1994; Green & Myerson, 1993; Lowenstein & Prelec, 1992; Raineri & Rachlin, 1993).

Rachlin, Raineri, and Cross (1991) proposed a useful method for examining a temporal discounting function of a reward. They asked participants to make a series of choices between two hypothetical monetary rewards to find the indifference point at which a smaller immediate reward is equivalent to a larger delayed reward. The indifference points are viewed as the present subjective values of delayed rewards. When indifference points are obtained for different delays, an indifference curve can be plotted. Previous research has proposed a hyperbolic function to describe the indifference curve:

V = A/(1 + kD), (1)

where V is the present subjective value of a delayed reward, A is the amount of the reward, D is the duration of the delay, and k is a parameter indicating the degree of temporal discounting (Mazur, 1987). Higher values of k indicate that the reward is discounted to a greater degree. Equation 1 has empirical support in studies of humans choosing hypothetical monetary rewards (for a review, see Green & Myerson, 2004; Ostaszewski, Green, & Myerson, 1998).

On the other hand, Myerson, Green, and Warusatitharana (2001) indicated that measures of discounting based on estimates of k have several disadvantages. First, the data from a number of individuals were poorly fit by Equation 1. Second, there has been considerable variability between participants. Third, the use of estimates of a model's parameters may have potential problems created by the lack of consensus regarding the mathematical form of the discounting function. Fourth, distributions of individual parameter estimates were skewed, and such distributions require the use of nonparametric tests that are less powerful than the counterparts of parametric tests (Myerson, Green, & Warusatitharana, 2001). To avoid these problems, they proposed a method of calculating the area under the empirical discounting function (the area under the curve: AUC) as a more appropriate measure of discounting.

Previous studies on temporal discounting have delineated several factors that affect the degree of discounting represented by k or AUC values, such as amount of reward (Green, Myerson, & McFadden, 1997), age of participants (Green, Myerson, Lichtman, Rosen, & Fry, 1996), income levels of participants (Green et al., 1996), and monetary inflation (Ostaszewski et al. 1998). In addition, recent studies have suggested that rates of discounting might be different between different outcome types within subjects (for a review, see Odum & Rainaud, 2003). For example, drug-dependent persons discounted their drug of abuse delayed in time more steeply than money delayed in time (Bickel, Odum, & Madden, 1999; Coffey, Gudleski, Saladin, & Brady, 2003; Madden, Petry, Badger, Bickel, 1997; Petry, 2001). People with no self-reported problems with money, alcohol, or food also discounted food more steeply than money (Kirby & Guastello. 2001; Odum & Rainaud, 2003; see also Forzano & Logue, 1992). Although the reasons underlying the differences in discounting rates for food and money are unknown at present, Odum and Rainaud (2003) suggested that steep discounting of food may occur as part of a general process by which primary or consumable reinforcers are discounted more steeply than conditioned or nonconsumable reinforcers.

As suggested by Ostaszewski et al. …

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