Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 5-32

First online:

Is Time-Discounting Hyperbolic or Subadditive?

  • Daniel ReadAffiliated withDepartment of Operational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science

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Subadditive time discounting means that discounting over a delay is greater when the delay is divided into subintervals than when it is left undivided. This may produce the most important result usually attributed to hyperbolic discounting: declining impatience, or the inverse relationship between the discount rate and the magnitude of the delay. Three choice experiments were conducted to test for subadditive discounting, and to determine whether it is sufficient to explain declining impatience. All three experiments showed strong evidence of subadditive discounting, but there was no evidence of declining impatience. I conclude by questioning whether hyperbolic discounting is a plausible account of time preference.

decision making intertemporal choice hyperbolic discounting support theory