Effects of Food Restriction and Pre-Training Length on Delay Discounting in Male Wistar Rats

  • Alaina Prince
  • Eric S. Murphy
  • Gwen LupferEmail author
Original Article


Impulsivity is often measured using delay discounting, a task in which individuals must select between smaller, sooner and larger, later reinforcers. The magnitude effect is the tendency for individuals to discount larger delayed reinforcers less steeply than smaller ones. In terms of food restriction, the magnitude effect predicts that restricted subjects should behave less impulsively, because restriction may increase food reinforcer value and therefore increase subjects’ propensity to select larger, later reinforcers. However, previous research examining the effects of reinforcer restriction has not demonstrated this. In the present research, 12 male Wistar rats were exposed to a delay discounting procedure under both free-feeding and food restriction conditions. Subjects selected more larger, later reinforcers when restricted to ~85% of their free-feeding weights, which is consistent with the magnitude effect. In addition, we systematically examined the effects of shortening the second training phase of a common delay discounting procedure (i.e., Evenden & Ryan, 1996, 1999), during which responses produced the immediate delivery of either one or five reinforcers. The number of sessions in the second training phase did not affect discounting once delays were imposed, indicating that future researchers may shorten this training phase without affecting impulsive responding.


Delay discounting Impulsivity Food restriction Magnitude effect 



This research was supported by a grant from the UAA Honors College’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. Data from this manuscript were presented at the 44th annual conference of the Association for Behavior Analysis International in San Diego, California. The authors thank Kailey Tobin and Cassandra Anderson for assistance with data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed, and procedures were approved by the university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC IRBNet protocol # 767807).


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA

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