Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We identify a novel contextual variable that alters the evaluation of delayed rewards in healthy participants and those diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When intertemporal choices are constructed of monetary outcomes with rounded values (e.g., $25.00), discount rates are greater than when the rewards have nonzero decimal values (e.g., $25.12). This finding is well explained within a dual system framework for temporal discounting in which preferences are constructed from separate affective and deliberative processes. Specifically, we find that round dollar values produce greater positive affect than do nonzero decimal values. This suggests that relative involvement of affective processes may underlie our observed difference in intertemporal preferences. Furthermore, we demonstrate that intertemporal choices with rounded values recruit greater brain responses in the nucleus accumbens to a degree that correlates with the size of the behavioral effect across participants. Our demonstration that a simple contextual manipulation can alter self-control in ADHD has implications for treatment of individuals with disorders of impulsivity. Overall, the decimal effect highlights mechanisms by which the properties of a reward bias perceived value and consequent preferences.