Within-subject comparison of real and hypothetical money rewards in delay discounting

Matthew W. Johnson, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

622 Scopus citations


A within-subject design, using human participants, compared delay discounting functions for real and hypothetical money rewards. Both real and hypothetical rewards were studied across a range that included $10 to $250. For 5 of the 6 participants, no systematic difference in discount rate was observed in response to real and hypothetical choices, suggesting that hypothetical rewards may often serve as a valid proxy for real rewards in delay discounting research. By measuring discounting at an unprecedented range of real rewards, this study has also systematically replicated the robust finding in human delay discounting research that discount rates decrease with increasing magnitude of reward. A hyperbolic decay model described the data better than an exponential model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-146
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Choice
  • Delay discounting
  • Humans
  • Hyperbolic
  • Hypothetical rewards
  • Magnitude
  • Real rewards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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