Initial examination of priming tasks to decrease delay discounting

Christine E. Sheffer, James Mackillop, Arislenia Fernandez, Darren Christensen, Warren K. Bickel, Matthew W. Johnson, Luana Panissidi, Jami Pittman, Christopher T. Franck, Jarrett Williams, Merlin Mathew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Steep discounting of delayed rewards is linked with a variety of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to the major causes of preventable death and disease. Growing evidence suggests that decreases in delay discounting contribute to healthier preferences. This study sought to provide preliminary evidence for the viability of developing a brief priming task to reduce delay discounting in a large, diverse group of individuals. Participants (n = 1,122) were randomized to one of three conditions: Future Focus (FF), Present Focus (PF), and Non-Temporal Focus (NTF) intended respectively to decrease, increase, or have no effect on delay discounting. Participants then completed the Monetary Choice Questionnaire, a brief assessment of delay discounting rate. Participants randomized to FF exhibited significantly lower discounting rates than those randomized to PF or NTF conditions. Race, Hispanic background, social self-monitoring, education, and cigarette smoking also accounted for a significant amount of variance in the discounting model. These findings provide support for the development of a brief priming intervention that might be examined in clinical or public health contexts to decrease discounting and support healthy choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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