Determination of discount functions in rats with an adjusting-amount procedure

Jerry B. Richards, Suzanne H. Mitchell, Harriet De Wit, Lewis S. Seiden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

335 Scopus citations


An adjusting-amount procedure was used to measure discounting of reinforcer value by delay. Eight rats chose between a varying amount of immediate water and a fixed amount of water given after a delay. The amount of immediate water was systematically adjusted as a function of the rats' previous choices. This procedure was used to determine the indifference point at which each rat chose the immediate amount and the delayed amount with equal frequency. The amount of immediate water at this indifference point was used to estimate the value of the delayed amount of water. In Experiment 1, the effects of daily changes in the delay to the fixed reinforcer (100 μl of water delivered after 0, 2, 4, 8, or 16 s) were tested. Under these conditions, the rats reached indifference points within the first 30 trials of each 60-trial session. In Experiment 2, the effects of water deprivation level on discounting of value by delay were assessed. Altering water deprivation level affected the speed of responding but did not affect delay discounting. In Experiment 3, the effects of varying the magnitude of the delayed water (100, 150, and 200 μl) were tested. There was some tendency for the discounting function to be steeper for larger than for smaller reinforcers, although this difference did not reach statistical significance. In all three experiments, the obtained discount functions were well described by a hyperbolic function. These experiments demonstrate that the adjusting-amount procedure provides a useful tool for measuring the discounting of reinforcer value by delay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the experimental analysis of behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Choice
  • Delayed reinforcement
  • Impulsivity
  • Nose poke
  • Rat
  • Reinforcer magnitude
  • Self-control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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