Temporal Discounting in Moral and Economic Judgement
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It is rational to discount future rewards relative to present ones, as the future is uncertain and the environment can change. This is neatly captured by the old saying, 'Here today, gone tomorrow'. In attempting to explain why people appear to have higher subjective valuations for sooner rewards relative to later ones, psychologists have proposed two competing models of temporal discounting: hyperbolic and exponential. In our study we presented a series of economic preference questions between a smaller reward and a larger reward paired with a delay in time as well as a series of moral dilemmas involving utilitarian style judgements meeting the impersonal/personal distinction proposed by Greene et al. (2004). Both hyperbolic and exponential discounting models were examined as explanations for participants' choices. The hyperbolic model explained the economic judgements much better than the exponential and exponential model was slightly better an explanation of moral decision making.