Both theoretical models and functional imaging studies implicate the involvement of emotions within the delay discounting process. However, defining this role has been difficult to establish with neuroimaging techniques given the automaticity of emotional responses. To address this, the current study examined electrophysiological correlates involved in the detection and evaluation of immediate and delayed monetary outcomes. Our results showed that modulation of both early and later ERP components previously associated with affective stimuli processing are sensitive to the signalling of delayed rewards. Together with behavioural reaction times that favoured immediacy, we demonstrated, for the first time, that time delays modify the incentive value of monetary rewards via mechanisms of emotional bias and selective visual attention. Furthermore, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that delayed and thus intangible rewards are perceived less saliently, and rely on emotion as a common currency within decision making. This study provides a new approach to delay discounting and highlights a potential novel route through which delay discounting may be investigated. © 2012 Copyright Psychology Press Ltd.
- Delay discounting