Simulating future value in intertemporal choice
Montague, P. Read
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The laboratory study of how humans and other animals trade-off value and time has a long and storied history, and is the subject of a vast literature. However, despite a long history of study, there is no agreed upon mechanistic explanation of how intertemporal choice preferences arise. Several theorists have recently proposed model-based reinforcement learning as a candidate framework. This framework describes a suite of algorithms by which a model of the environment, in the form of a state transition function and reward function, can be converted on-line into a decision. The state transition function allows the model-based system to make decisions based on projected future states, while the reward function assigns value to each state, together capturing the necessary components for successful intertemporal choice. Empirical work has also pointed to a possible relationship between increased prospection and reduced discounting. In the current paper, we look for direct evidence of a relationship between temporal discounting and model-based control in a large new data set (n = 168). However, testing the relationship under several different modeling formulations revealed no indication that the two quantities are related.