The subjective value of delayed and probabilistic outcomes: Outcome size matters for gains but not for losses

Suzanne H. Mitchell, Vanessa B. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Scopus citations


The subjective value of a reward (gain) is related to factors such as its size, the delay to its receipt and the probability of its receipt. We examined whether the subjective value of losses was similarly affected by these factors in 128 adults. Participants chose between immediate/certain gains or losses and larger delayed/probabilistic gains or losses. Rewards of $100 were devalued as a function of their delay ("discounted") relatively less than $10 gains while probabilistic $100 rewards were discounted relatively more than $10 rewards. However, there was no effect of outcome size on discounting of delayed or probabilistic losses. For delayed outcomes of each size, the degree to which gains were discounted was positively correlated with the degree to which losses were discounted, whereas for probabilistic outcomes, no such correlation was observed. These results suggest that the processes underlying the subjective valuation of losses are different from those underlying the subjective valuation of gains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-40
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010



  • Delay discounting
  • Gain discounting
  • Loss discounting
  • Probability discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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