Impact Factor

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 19 July 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00251

Individual differences in delay discounting under acute stress: the role of trait perceived stress

  • 1Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, USA
  • 2Department of Psychology, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA
  • 3Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, USA

Delay discounting refers to the reduction of the value of a future reward as the delay to that reward increases. The rate at which individuals discount future rewards varies as a function of both individual and contextual differences, and high delay discounting rates have been linked with problematic behaviors, including drug abuse and gambling. The current study investigated the effects of acute anticipatory stress on delay discounting, while considering two important factors: individual perceptions of stress and whether the stressful situation is future-focused or present-focused. Half of the participants experienced acute stress by anticipating giving a videotaped speech. This stress was either future-oriented (speech about future job) or present-oriented (speech about physical appearance). They then performed a delay discounting task, in which they chose between smaller, immediate rewards, and larger, delayed rewards. Their scores on the Perceived Stress Scale were also collected. The way in which one appraises stressful situations interacts with acute stress to influence choices; under stressful conditions, delay discounting rate was highest in individuals with low trait perceived stress and lowest for individuals with high trait perceived stress. This result might be related to individual variation in reward responsiveness under stress. Furthermore, the time orientation of the task interacted with its stressfulness to affect the individual’s propensity to choose immediate rewards. These findings add to our understanding of the intermediary factors between stress and decision-making.

Keywords: delay discounting, stress, decision-making, future orientation, perceived stress

Citation: Lempert KM, Porcelli AJ, Delgado MR and Tricomi E (2012) Individual differences in delay discounting under acute stress: the role of trait perceived stress. Front. Psychology 3:251. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00251

Received: 09 May 2012; Accepted: 28 June 2012;
Published online: 19 July 2012.

Edited by:

Mara Mather, University of Southern California, USA

Reviewed by:

John Monterosso, University of Southern California, USA
Louise Cosand, University of Southern California, USA
Taiki Takahashi, Hokkaido University, Japan

Copyright: © 2012 Lempert, Porcelli, Delgado and Tricomi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Elizabeth Tricomi, Rutgers-Newark Psychology Department, 101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102, USA. e-mail: etricomi@psychology.rutgers.edu