Stuck in Time: Negative Income Shock Constricts the Temporal Window of Valuation Spanning the Future and the Past

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Insufficient resources are associated with negative consequences including decreased valuation of future reinforcers. To determine if these effects result from scarcity, we examined the consequences of acute, abrupt changes in resource availability on delay discounting—the subjective devaluation of rewards as delay to receipt increases. In the current study, 599 individuals recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk read a narrative of a sudden change (positive, neutral, or negative) to one’s hypothetical future income and completed a delay discounting task examining future and past monetary gains and losses. The effects of the explicit zero procedure, a framing manipulation, was also examined. Negative income shock significantly increased discounting rates for gains and loses occurring both in the future and the past. Positive income windfalls significantly decreased discounting to a lesser extent. The framing procedure significantly reduced discounting under all conditions. Negative income shocks may result in short-term choices.