Children's responsiveness to immediate and delayed classroom contingencies: An application and extension of temporal discounting

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Discounting, Time-only discounting, Impulsivity, Delay discounting, Self-control

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Temporal discounting refers to the tendencies organisms exhibit whereby smaller, more immediate rewards are preferred over larger, but delayed rewards. Past research has successfully linked temporal discounting to impulsive behaviors in adults such as gambling and needle sharing, as well as ADHD diagnoses in children. However, to date, no research exists translating these findings to the effectiveness of delayed rewards in classroom management techniques. This study investigated the applicability of a child-based assessment of temporal discounting, and its utility for predicting responsiveness to classroom reinforcement contingencies. Specifically, 46 6 th grade students were administered a brief temporal discounting assessment twice over a one-week period. Following the second assessment, all students participated in a classwide token economy which featured a baseline, sooner reward, and later reward condition for on-task behavior. Results indicated adequate (above .80) and statistically significant reliability estimates at one week test-retest intervals for most parameters of the discounting assessment. Statistically significant predictive validity coefficients with respect to classroom on-task behavior were obtained for a subsample of participants who displayed the prototypical discounting pattern. Implications of discounting assessment for student's reponsiveness to classroom interventions, token system exchange delays, and assessment of impulsivity are discussed.