Asymmetric Discounting in Intertemporal Choice: A Query Theory Account

8 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2008 Last revised: 31 Aug 2011

Elke U. Weber

Columbia Business School - Management & Psychology

Eric J. Johnson

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Kerry F. Milch

Columbia University

Hannah Chang

Singapore Management University

Jeffrey Brodscholl

Harris Interactive

Daniel G. Goldstein

Microsoft Research New York City; London Business School

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

When asked to delay consumption, people are impatient and discount future rewards more than when offered the chance to accelerate consumption. Three experiments provide a process-level account for this asymmetry, with implications for the design of decision environments that promote less impulsivity. In Experiment 1, a thought-listing procedure shows that people decompose discount valuation into two queries. Considering delayed vs. accelerated receipt of a gift-certificate influences the order in which memory is queried to support immediate vs. delayed consumption, which affects the number of patient vs. impatient thoughts. Relative frequency and clustering of impatient thoughts predicts discounting and mediates the discounting asymmetry. Experiment 2 implicates query-order causally: Listing reasons for immediate vs. delayed consumption in the orders people use spontaneously in acceleration and delay decisions replicates the discounting asymmetry; reversing this order eliminates it. Experiment 3 supports a memory-interference account of the effect of query order, using an implicit-memory task.

Suggested Citation

Weber, Elke U. and Johnson, Eric J. and Milch, Kerry F. and Chang, Hannah and Brodscholl, Jeffrey and Goldstein, Daniel G., Asymmetric Discounting in Intertemporal Choice: A Query Theory Account (2007). Psychological Science, Vol. 18, pp. 516-523, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1301134

Elke U. Weber (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Management & Psychology ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Eric J. Johnson

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Kerry F. Milch

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Hannah Chang

Singapore Management University ( email )

Li Ka Shing Library
70 Stamford Road
Singapore 178901, 178899
Singapore

Jeffrey Brodscholl

Harris Interactive ( email )

United States

Daniel G. Goldstein

Microsoft Research New York City ( email )

641 Avenue of Americas
New York, NY 10011
United States

London Business School ( email )

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Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom
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HOME PAGE: http://www.dangoldstein.com

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