Attractor Dynamics in Delay Discounting: A Call for Complexity

Abstract

The outcomes of intertemporal choices indicate that people discount rewards by their delay. These outcomes are well described by discounting functions. However, to fully understand the decision process one needs models describing how the process of decision-making unfolds dynamically over time. Here, we validate a recently published attractor model that extends discounting functions through a description of the dynamics leading to a final choice outcome within and across trials. We focus on the decision dynamics across trials. We derive qualitative predictions for the inter-trial dynamics of sequences of decisions that are unique to this type of model. We test these predictions in a delay discounting game where we sequentially manipulated subjective values of options across all attribute dimensions. Results confirm the model’s predictions. We discuss future challenges on integrating attractor models towards a general attractor model of delay discounting to enhance our understanding of the processes underlying delay discounting decisions.


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