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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Relationship between Delay Discounting and Risk Preference in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and Humans


Adaptive decisions require that decision makers factor in the subjective values of different possible outcomes, and the probability of these outcomes occurring. Subjective values depend, among other things, on how far an outcome is away in time. This can be captured by assessing an individual’s delay discounting of different options. An individual’s risk preference also affects how attractive particular choice options appear to them. In humans, probability discounting and delay discounting are often related. People who show more risky behaviors also tend to be more impulsive and less patient. Based on such findings, single-process models of delay discounting and probability discounting have been suggested. In the current study, we tested if this relationship is equally present in chimpanzees, one of human’s closest extant evolutionary relatives. We presented 23 chimpanzees with a patience task and a risky-choice task. The patience task was designed to explicitly distinguish between delay preference and self-control (i.e., the ability to wait a given delay). Still, we found no strong correlations between risk and delay preferences. As this task has not been used with humans before, we implemented a computerized version and tested it in a sample of twenty adult participants. Initial results indicate that the task is well suited to capture patience, and it makes a promising candidate to be used in behavioral delay discounting experiments in humans.

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