Effects of affective content and time perspective of episodic thinking on delay discounting
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Impulsivity characterized by the inability to delay gratification may stem from difficulties in accurately perceiving the utility of future outcomes. Neuroimaging studies have shown that prospection via episodic future thinking decreases delay discounting, or the tendency to devalue future rewards as a function of temporal distance. However, the mechanism of this effect remains unclear, and whether this strategy is moderated by factors influencing self-regulation has not been explored. In this study, we show that episodic future thinking may reduce delay discounting primarily by expanding the temporal horizon of intertemporal decision-making. In addition, these effects may be moderated by the affective content of the reference events, as well as by individual differences in executive function and dopamine genetics. The current findings dovetail with previous research to suggest that factors influencing episodic future thinking during intertemporal decision-making may predispose some individuals toward impulsivity.