Hypothetical Intertemporal Choice and Real Economic Behavior: Delay Discounting Predicts Voucher Redemptions During Contingency-Management Procedures

Publication Title

Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology

Publication Date


Document Type





delay discounting, opioid, contingency management, impulsivity, competing neurobehavioral decision systems


Applied Behavior Analysis | Behavioral Economics | Biological Psychology | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Psychology


Delay discounting rates are predictive of drug use status, the likelihood of becoming abstinent, and a variety of health behaviors. Rates of delay discounting may also be related to other relevant behaviors associated with addiction, such as the frequency at which individuals redeem contingency management voucher earnings. This study examined the discounting rates of 152 participants in a buprenorphine treatment program for opioid abuse. Participants received up to 12 weeks of buprenorphine treatment combined with contingency management. Participant's drug use was measured via urine specimens submitted three times a week. Successive negative urine specimens were reinforced with increasing amounts of money. After each negative urine specimen, a participant could either redeem his or her earnings or accumulate it in an account. Analysis of the frequency of redemptions showed that participants with higher rates of delay discounting at study intake redeemed their earnings significantly more often than participants with lower rates of discounting. Age and income also predicted redemption rates. We suggest that delay discounting rates can be used to predict redemption behaviors in a contingency management treatment program and that these findings are consistent with the recent theory of the competing neurobehavioral decision systems.


American Psychological Association

Publisher Location

Washington, DC