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Investing in the Future You: Delay Discounting in Younger and Older Adults


Hal Ernser-Hershfield
Brian Knutson
Kacey Ballard
  • Professor, Psychology

Temporal discounting refers to the phenomenon in which individuals value present rewards relative to future rewards. This phenomenon, in theory, could be related to poor saving behavior over the life span. If someone fails to save enough for retirement, he or she is at least implicitly valuing the present more than the future. To examine temporal discounting many laboratory studies use standard choice procedures where subjects choose between smaller immediate rewards and larger delayed rewards. However, little research has examined whether these tasks actually map on to real-life savings behavior, particularly over the lifespan. Thus, the investigators created a novel paradigm that taps into savings behavior and tested it on 40 participants whose ages ranged from 22-75years.