Further Evidence on Time Discounting and Human BiologyISER External Seminars

The biological foundation of individual differences in human time preferences has been a
growing area of research. Daly, Delaney and Harmon (2009) outline a large variety of
potential biological mechanisms underpinning variations in discount rates and provide
preliminary evidence for the role of basic differences in human stress responses and other
“autonomic” nervous system functions. This paper examines in detail the relationship
between measures of human stress response (including cortisol, heart rate variability and
blood pressure) and measures of human time discounting elicited both through psychometric
scales and standard economic discounting experiments. Using data from an experiment that
combined detailed biological tracking with measure of time discounting and a wide range of
control variables, we find strong evidence that differences in human time discount rates may
be related to underlying differences in autonomic nervous system functioning. These findings
suggest a potential role for early childhood environments that condition stress responses as
underlying differences in human time discounting. The implications of these findings and
their limitations are discussed in depth.

Presented by:

Liam Delaney (UCD)

Date & time:

13 Dec 2010 16:00 pm - 13 Dec 2010 17:30 pm

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