Larger Sooner, Smaller Later: A Special Case of Discounting Compounding Stimuli in the Case of Health Choice Behavior

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Durako, Emily
thesis / dissertation description
The present study used a discounting task to evaluate how weight gain and weight loss aredifferentially discounted across successively greater lengths of time. Two surveys wereadministered to twenty participants that included hypothetical discounting questions. Questions included the following format, “Would you rather eat food item A for X amount of days and gainY pounds or eat food item B for X amount of days and gain 0 pounds.” The questions consisted offood item A being a high calorie/high preferred food and food item B being a moderate calorie/moderately preferred food, the X value equaled days ranging from 1 day to 600 days, and the Y value equaled the amount of weight ranging from 0.01 to 0.1 multiplied by X. Each survey was preceded with a different hypothetical scenario where unhealthy foods, moderately healthy foods, or health foods were available to eat and were incorporated into the following food choices the participants were asked to select based on preference. The results showed a difference in the levels of discounting across the two conditions, where the greatest discounting occurred when healthy foods resulted in losing weight. Exponential decay functions provided a strong fit for the two conditions (R² = 0.059, R² = 0.47, respectively), and relationships between the data in each loss or gain condition was analyzed.