Primed for Health: Future Thinking Priming Decreases Delay Discounting


Objective: Delay discounting, the propensity to devalue delayed rewards, has robust predictive validity for multiple health behaviors and is a new therapeutic target for health behavior change. Priming can influence behaviors in a predictable manner. We aimed to use the Future Thinking Priming task, administered remotely, to reliably decrease delay discounting rates. Methods: In this pre-post randomized control group design, participants completed multiple delay discounting measures at baseline; then, 2 weeks later, they were randomized to Future Thinking Priming or Neutral Priming conditions. We hypothesized that Future Thinking Priming would significantly decrease delay discounting rates accounting for baseline delay discounting rates and time in repeated measures analyses. Results: Participants randomized to Future Thinking Priming (N = 783) demonstrated significantly lower delay discounting rates post-intervention than those randomized to Neutral Priming (N = 747) on multiple delay discounting measures and magnitudes. Conclusions: A single administration of Future Thinking Priming produces statistically reliable reductions in delay discounting rates. The task is brief, can be administered remotely, and is highly scalable. If found to support behavior change, the task might be disseminated broadly to enhance evidence-based behavior change interventions. Future research must determine optimal exposure patterns to support durable health behavior change.

delay discounting, priming, public health, behavioral medicine, tobacco use and control, Obesity