Departmental Papers (Psychology)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Frontiers in Psychology






Humans and other animals discount the value of future rewards, a phenomenon known as delay discounting. Individuals vary widely in the extent to which they discount future rewards, and these tendencies have been associated with important life outcomes. Recent studies have demonstrated that imagining the future reduces subsequent discounting behavior, but no research to date has examined whether a similar principle applies at the trait level, and whether training visualization changes discounting. The current study examined if individual differences in visualization abilities are linked to individual differences in discounting and whether practicing visualization can change discounting behaviors in a lasting way. Participants (n = 48) completed the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) and delay discounting task and then underwent a 4-week intervention consisting of visualization training (intervention) or relaxation training (control). Contrary to our hypotheses, participants who reported greater visualization abilities (lower scores) on the VVIQ were higherdiscounters. To further examine this relationship, an additional 106 participants completed the VVIQ and delay discounting task. In the total sample (n = 154), there was a significant negative correlation between VVIQ scores and discount rates, showing that individuals who are better visualizers are also higher discounters. Consistent with this relationship but again to our surprise, visualization training tended, albeit weakly, to increase discount rates, and those whose VVIQ decreased the most were those whose discount rates increased the most. These results suggest a novel association between visualization abilities and delay discounting.

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Made available under a CC-BY license according to Frontiers' policy.


delay discounting, visualization, future thinking, intertemporal choice, imagination

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Psychology Commons



Date Posted: 06 December 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.