Unstuck in time: episodic future thinking reduces delay discounting and cigarette smoking

Jeffrey S. Stein, A. George Wilson, Mikhail N. Koffarnus, Tinuke Oluyomi Daniel, Leonard H. Epstein, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


Rationale: Delay discounting, or the devaluation of delayed outcomes, appears to play an etiological role in tobacco and other substance-use disorders. Objectives: No human studies to our knowledge have been designed to examine whether experimental reductions in delay discounting produce concomitant reduction in drug use. Methods: Using methods from prior studies on delay discounting and obesity, we examined the effects of episodic future thinking (EFT; a form of mental prospection) on delay discounting and cigarette self-administration in smokers. Results: Consistent with prior data, EFT significantly reduced both delay discounting (Cohen’s d effect size = 0.65) and the number of cigarette puffs earned in a cigarette self-administration task (d = 0.58). Conclusions: The effects of EFT on delay discounting generalize to smokers; EFT also reduces laboratory-based cigarette self-administration. Potential mechanisms of EFT’s effects are discussed as well as implications of EFT for clinical treatment of substance-use disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3771-3778
Number of pages8
Issue number21-22
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Cigarettes
  • Delay discounting
  • Episodic future thinking
  • Prospection
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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