Changing delay discounting in the light of the competing neurobehavioral decision systems theory: A review

Mikhail N. Koffarnus, David P. Jarmolowicz, E. Terry Mueller, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Excessively devaluing delayed reinforcers co-occurs with a wide variety of clinical conditions such as drug dependence, obesity, and excessive gambling. If excessive delay discounting is a trans-disease process that underlies the choice behavior leading to these and other negative health conditions, efforts to change an individual's discount rate are arguably important. Although discount rate is often regarded as a relatively stable trait, descriptions of interventions and environmental manipulations that successfully alter discount rate have begun to appear in the literature. In this review, we compare published examples of procedures that change discount rate and classify them into categories of procedures, including therapeutic interventions, direct manipulation of the executive decision-making system, framing effects, physiological state effects, and acute drug effects. These changes in discount rate are interpreted from the perspective of the competing neurobehavioral decision systems theory, which describes a combination of neurological and behavioral processes that account for delay discounting. We also suggest future directions that researchers could take to identify the mechanistic processes that allow for changes in discount rate and to test whether the competing neurobehavioral decision systems view of delay discounting is correct.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-57
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Delay discounting
  • Executive function
  • Human
  • Impulsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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