Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The tendency to make unhealthy choices is hypothesized to be related to an individual's temporal discount rate, the theoretical rate at which they devalue delayed rewards. Furthermore, a particular form of temporal discounting, hyperbolic discounting, has been proposed to explain why unhealthy behavior can occur despite healthy intentions. We examine these two hypotheses in turn. We first systematically review studies which investigate whether discount rates can predict unhealthy behavior. These studies reveal that high discount rates for money (and in some instances food or drug rewards) are associated with several unhealthy behaviors and markers of health status, establishing discounting as a promising predictive measure. We secondly examine whether intention-incongruent unhealthy actions are consistent with hyperbolic discounting. We conclude that intention-incongruent actions are often triggered by environmental cues or changes in motivational state, whose effects are not parameterized by hyperbolic discounting. We propose a framework for understanding these state-based effects in terms of the interplay of two distinct reinforcement learning mechanisms: a "model-based" (or goal-directed) system and a "model-free" (or habitual) system. Under this framework, while discounting of delayed health may contribute to the initiation of unhealthy behavior, with repetition, many unhealthy behaviors become habitual; if health goals then change, habitual behavior can still arise in response to environmental cues. We propose that the burgeoning development of computational models of these processes will permit further identification of health decision-making phenotypes.

Original publication

DOI

10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00076

Type

Journal article

Journal

Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience

Publication Date

01/2014

Volume

8

Addresses

Department of Surgery and Cancer, Centre for Health Policy, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London London, UK ; Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London London, UK.