The delayed discounting task examines how long individuals wait in order to obtain a more valued but delayed reward (or outcome) versus one that is less valued but immediately available. Participants are presented with a series of choices between a smaller hypothetical monetary reward immediately over a larger reward delayed in time. For example, they might be asked: “Would you rather have $100 now or $1,000 six months from now?” The value of the immediate reward is adjusted upward or downward over repeated trials until preference for the immediate and delayed reward are equal. Those equivalence points can then be plotted in a way that describes the rate at which delayed rewards are discounted. A steeper curve is evidence of less willingness to delay – in other words, more short-sighted behavior. In these situations that pit long-term interests against short-term gains, the assumption is that the less impulsive (more regulated) person is able to weigh long-term rewards more heavily.
Steinberg L., Graham S., O’Brien L., Woolard J., Cauffman E., Banich M. (2009). Age differences in future orientation and delay discounting. Child Dev. 80 28–44