Save the Best for Last I: Young Adults Demonstrate Negative Time Preference-A Replication and Extension




Citation of Original Publication

Castillo, M. I., Sun, S., Frank-Crawford, M. A., & Borrero, J. C. (2022). Save the best for last I: Young adults demonstrate negative time preference—A replication and extension. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, 22(2), 143–163.


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Generally, immediate outcomes are preferred to delayed outcomes, and in economics, this phenomenon is referred to as positive time preference. If positive time preference is normative, when asked to schedule a set of outcomes, a person should typically prefer a worsening sequence (i.e., choose to start with the best outcome and end with the worst outcome). Several studies have shown that when a choice is among a sequence of outcomes, people typically exhibit negative time preference (i.e., they prefer an improving series of events). In the current studies, college students responded to hypothetical questions via an online survey. Study 1a was a replication and extension of procedures described by Loewenstein and Prelec (1991, Section II). Response patterns like those of Loewenstein and Prelec were observed in that the percentage of participants who saved the best for last decreased when the interval between activities in the sequence increased. In Study 1b, participants were surveyed about their preference for the order in which they would experience hypothetical outcomes with sequences of different sizes (e.g., three activities to sequence or eight). As array size increased, the percentage of participants who saved the best for last, or generated a perfectly improving sequence, decreased. In Study 2, 192 college students responded to questions involving categorically different outcomes (e.g., noxious stimuli, food, exercise, schoolwork, leisure) via an online survey. A smaller percentage of participants saved the best for last relative to prior studies, but the percentage was highest when sequences involved noxious stimuli or food.