ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (7): 1291-1299.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01291

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Negative discounting in intertemporal choice

SUN Hongyue(), LU Pan, JIANG Yuanping   

  1. College of Education, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
  • Received:2020-07-20 Online:2021-07-15 Published:2021-05-24
  • Contact: SUN Hongyue


Mainstream models on intertemporal choice assume that a temporal discounting process occurs when people choose between outcomes occurring at different times in an intertemporal choice. Economists and psychologists have proposed a series of models to describe the intertemporal decision-making behavior. Whether it is the initial discounting utility model or the later hyperbolic model, etc., the hypothesis of time discounting has been upheld, which refers to people’s tendency to discount the value of delayed outcomes by the amount of time one must wait for them, thereby reducing the subjective value of these future outcomes. However, there is a phenomenon that fundamentally deviates from the discounting family model—the negative discounting phenomenon. The emergence of negative discounting challenges the time discounting hypothesis held by mainstream intertemporal decision-making models. The current researches on intertemporal choice pay little attention to the negative discounting phenomenon. Its related researches mainly concentrated in the early stage and that on its influencing factors and internal mechanism are even poorer.

This article systematically sorted out the phenomenon of negative discounting, which was found in money and non-money domains with benefits and losses. There is a certain percentage of negative discounting phenomenon in every domain, which may be underestimated. Researchers need to pay more attention to this phenomenon in the future and find more by modifying the decision-making paradigm. This article also elaborated on the possible explanation mechanism—anticipated emotions. The negative discounting phenomenon in the domain of gain and loss can be explained by "anticipated savoring" and "anticipated dread" respectively. However, there are few empirical studies on the mechanism of negative discounting. Future research should combine eye tracking and fMRI technology to further explore the mechanism and enrich researches on the influencing factors of the negative discounting, such as individual characteristics and option characteristics.

Currently, researchers mostly explored intertemporal choice behavior under the framework of time discounting hypothesis. However, it will help us better understand intertemporal choice and further improve the intertemporal decision model to explore the internal mechanism and influencing factors of the negative discounting. Moreover, in certain situations of gains or losses, the phenomenon of negative discounting will benefit individuals’ mental health as well as social harmony. Therefore, it is of great social significance to formulate a boosting strategy to facilitate the emergence of the negative discounting phenomenon.

Key words: negative discounting, gain, loss, anticipated dread, anticipated savoring

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