Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (1.64 MB)

Why Should we be Impulsive at Times When we Would be Self-Controlled?

Download (1.64 MB)
posted on 2022-08-23, 22:34 authored by Hammond, Annabelle

Impulsivity in delay discounting paradigms is related to a variety of poor outcomes. Yet, a recent study by Neff and Macaskill found that a sizable subset of participants said that they should be impulsive, even in cases where they would be self-controlled (reward immediacy foregoing choices). This pattern has not been reported previously.

In Experiment 1, we explored this counter-intuitive finding by asking 153 undergraduate students to repeatedly choose between hypothetically receiving a smaller amount of money now or a larger amount of money later. Participants were asked both what they would do, and what they should do. Results of a multi-level logistic regression indicated that reward immediacy foregoing choices were most likely to occur closer to their indifference points, meaning the two alternatives were of similar subjective value. This indicates that these choices may be made as the result of variability due to high decision conflict. We followed-up by asking participants to describe what they considered when making their choices and conducted a thematic analysis on their answers. Participants who made reward immediacy foregoing choices indicated that they should be attending to their current financial needs more than they would.

Experiment 2 enlisted 159 undergraduate student participants and sought to experimentally determine whether current financial need and/or variability around the indifference point contributed to reward immediacy foregoing choices. We did this by adding a front-end delay and assessing choice reliability, respectively. The front-end delay meant that the smaller, sooner reward could not fulfil a current financial need, therefore we hypothesised that reward immediacy foregoing choices would decrease. Although this was the case, the reliability of these choices was also very low, so it is unsettled whether the low occurrence after the front-end delay was due to our manipulation or low reliability. Quantitative results thus pointed to variability as a key contributor to reward immediacy foregoing choices. Participants’ descriptions of the factors they considered suggested that current financial need might play an additional role. Further research on variability as a function of distance to the indifference point is warranted.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Macaskill, Anne; Hunt, Maree