Intertemporal Decisions From Experience Versus Description: Similarities and Differences

Yael Shavit, Yefim Roth, Jerome Busemeyer, Kinneret Teodorescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intertemporal trade-offs between small, temporally proximate benefits and larger, delayed benefits are frequent in our everyday lives.Most research on intertemporal choices has been focused on “one-shot” descriptive and hypothetical scenarios which involve large scales of both money and time. Yet, in daily life, many small intertemporal decisions are made repeatedly, based on real previous experiences. In the current article, we investigate small repeated intertemporal choices with actual delays, focusing on three established intertemporal effects—common difference, magnitude, and delay duration. In a preliminary study, we compared small and large scales of rewards and delays in a descriptive hypothetical setting. In the small-scale problems, participants did not exhibit significant sensitivity to small changes in durations, leading to increased patience. Using the same small-scale problems, in Study 2 we employed a purely experiential environment and found a significant sensitivity to durations and reduced patience. To further examine the impact of description versus experience on patience, in Study 3, we added full description of the intertemporal trade-offs to the experiential setting of Study 2. Participants’ willingness to wait was relatively high in the first descriptive trial but decreased drastically after experiencing delays. The current results demonstrate similarities and differences between small, experience-based and large, description-based intertemporal choices. While the three known intertemporal effects were observed in all settings, we found a substantial gap between decisions made based on description and those made based on experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-152
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - 13 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • Decision from experience
  • Description-experience gap
  • Intertemporal choices
  • Learning
  • Time discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


Dive into the research topics of 'Intertemporal Decisions From Experience Versus Description: Similarities and Differences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this