ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (5): 1106-1118.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01106

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The role of time perception in intertemporal decision-making: New exploration of time decision-making model

BI Cuihua(), QI Huaiyuan   

  1. School of Psychology, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610068, China
  • Received:2021-07-30 Online:2022-05-15 Published:2022-03-24
  • Contact: BI Cuihua


Intertemporal decision-making is very frequent in life, and they require individuals to weigh the outcomes at different points of time before making a choice. Time and value are the basic dimensions of intertemporal decision-making, and decision-makers have to consider value as well as more about the impact of time interval. Although many studies have explored the value dimension, there are still many doubts in the time dimension. A growing body of research suggests that people's subjective perception of the time interval, as opposed to the objective time interval, is the direct factor influencing the intertemporal decision. Therefore, the traditional exponential discount and hyperbolic models do not explain the variability in intertemporal decision-making in terms of time perception. How does time perception affect individuals' intertemporal decision-making? What are the theoretical and neural mechanisms behind the role of time perception? What are the shortcomings of the existing theoretical models? Answering these queries is essential for further research on the relationship between time perception and intertemporal decision-making.
The role of time perception on intertemporal decision-making mainly consists of three ways: (1) Time length perception, which refers to people's subjective estimation of the distance of delay time. The shorter the perceived time length, the less patience people have to wait for the delayed benefit. (2) Time resource perception, which refers to the estimation of how much time resources people have at their disposal. The less time resources people perceive, the more they prefer immediate benefits. (3) Time frame perception, which refers to the change of time description will affect individuals' decision preferences. For example, when the direction of time points to the future, and people are more likely to magnify the value of future gains subjectively.
In terms of the neural mechanisms underlying the role of temporal perception, intertemporal decision-making at the micro-level is closely related to the activation of temporal length perception, subjective value assessment, and impulsivity-related brain regions. In contrast, intertemporal decision-making is closely related to cortico-limbic-striatal neural circuits at the macro level. Researchers have proposed different theoretical models to explain the behavioral dimension of the role of temporal perception. The mainstream theories mainly include the logarithmic/exponential time discount model, the perceived time based model, and the multi-attribute drift diffusion model. The logarithmic/exponential time discount model is constructed based on the exponential discount model, which replaces the original objective time distance with time length perception. The perceived time based model is built to describe the variability of individual time perception. The Multi-attribute drift diffusion model is mainly used to describe the contribution of the attention to the time or value dimension of the decision-making. We believe that the above models only expose the mechanism of time perception from one aspect of the psychological process and lack a unified theory to describe the process of intertemporal decision-making as a whole. In general, the existing models have two limitations: (1) The effect of time perception on intertemporal decision-making differs between the long and short time spacing conditions. (2) People's preferences for intertemporal decision-making differ in actual and expected situations. In order to more accurately describe and explain the psychological mechanism of time perception influencing intertemporal decision making, future studies should strengthen the exploration of the process mechanism and try to construct a unified theoretical model of time perception-intertemporal decision making. Meanwhile, the study of neurophysiological mechanisms should be strengthened, from which the rationality of the theoretical model can be verified. In addition, it is necessary to pay attention to the application value of the research and design the training method of time perception to reduce the probability of people's irrational decision-making.

Key words: time perception, intertemporal decision-making, time decision-making model, dynamic time perception perspective