Skip to main content

Preliminary Evaluation of Delay Discounting and Cell Phone Use in the College Classroom


Delay discounting is a behavioral measure of impulsivity in which respondents choose between hypothetical smaller immediate rewards (SIR) or larger delayed rewards (LDR). Delay discounting questionnaires quantify impulsivity by calculating the rate that delayed rewards lose their subjective value for a particular participant or group. The purpose of the present study was to collect additional evidence on the relation of delay discounting and cell phone use in the college classroom. College students at the undergraduate and graduate level (N = 43) completed a brief survey about their cell phone use in the classroom as well as a delay discounting questionnaire. The primary dependent measures were self-reported duration and rate of cell phone use. Pearson product-moment correlations were calculated between participant characteristics and delay discounting rates. Hierarchical linear regression models were used to adjust for basic demographic variables and measure the independent effect of delay discounting rates on cell phone use. Delay discounting rates were correlated with age (r(39) = -.39, p = .012), duration of cell phone use (r(41) = .42, p = .005), and rate of cell phone use per hr (r(40) = .34, p = .026). Delay discounting rate significantly predicted duration of cell phone use after adjusting for age and sex (B = 0.31, SE = 0.13, p = .023). Delay discounting rate did not predict rate of classroom cell phone use in the regression model (p = .14), nor did it alter the predictive utility of the model (p = .14).

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  1. Aguilar-Roca, N. M., Williams, A. E., & O'Dowd, D. K. (2012). The impact of laptop-free zones on student performance and attitudes in large lectures. Computers & Education, 59, 1300–1308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Atchley, P., Atwood, S., & Boulton, A. (2011). The choice to text and drive in younger drivers: Behavior may shape attitude. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 43, 134–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bickel, W. K., Odum, A. L., & Madden, G. J. (1999). Impulsivity and cigarette smoking: Delay discounting in current, never, and ex-smokers. Psychopharmacology, 146, 447–454.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Bickel, W. K., Yi, R., Landes, R. D., Hill, P. F., & Baxter, C. (2011). Remember the future: Working memory training decreases delay discounting among stimulant addicts. Biological Psychiatry, 69, 260–265.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Bickel, W. K., Jarmolowicz, D. P., Mueller, E. T., Koffarnus, M. N., & Gatchalian, K. M. (2012). Excessive discounting of delayed reinforcers as a trans-disease process contributing to addiction and other disease-related vulnerabilities: Emerging evidence. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 134, 287–297.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bickel, W. K., Moody, L. N., Eddy, C. R., & Franck, C. T. (2017). Neurocognitive dysfunction in addiction: Testing hypotheses of diffuse versus selective phenotypic dysfunction with a classification-based approach. Experimental & Clinical Psychopharmacology, 25, 322–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Billieux, J., Van der Linden, M., & Rochat, L. (2008). The role of impulsivity in actual and problematic use of the mobile phone. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 1195–1210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Billieux, J., Maurage, P., Lopez-Fernandez, O., Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). Can disordered mobile phone use be considered a behavioral addiction? An update on current evidence and a comprehensive model for future research. Current Addiction Reports, 2, 156–162.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dwyer, R. J., Kushlev, K., & Dunn, E. W. (2018). Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 78, 233–239.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. End, C. M., Worthman, S., Mathews, M. B., & Wetterau, K. (2010). Costly cell phones: The impact of cell phone rings on academic performance. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 55–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Harrell Jr., F. E. (2015). Regression modeling strategies: With applications to linear models, logistic and ordinal regression, and survival analysis. New York, NY: Springer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  12. Hayashi, Y., & Blessington, G. P. (2018). A behavioral economic analysis of media multitasking: Delay discounting as an underlying process of texting in the classroom. Computers in Human Behavior, 86, 245–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hayashi, Y., Russo, C. T., & Wirth, O. (2015). Texting while driving as impulsive choice: A behavioral economic analysis. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 83, 182–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Johnson, M. W., & Bickel, W. K. (2002). Within-subject comparison of real and hypothetical money rewards in delay discounting. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 77, 129–146.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Jones, M. E., Allday, R. A., & Givens, A. (2019). Reducing adolescent cell phone usage using an interdependent group contingency. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 52, 386–393.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Kaplan, B. A., Lemley, S. M., Reed, D. D., & Jarmolowicz, D. P. (2014). 21- and 27-Item Monetary Choice Questionnaire Automated Scorer [spreadsheet application]. Retrieved from: Accessed 27 May 2020.

  17. Kaplan, B. A., Amlung, M., Reed, D. D., Jarmolowicz, D. P., McKerchar, T. L., & Lemley, S. M. (2016). Automating scoring of delay discounting for the 21-and 27-item monetary choice questionnaires. The Behavior Analyst, 39, 293–304.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. Kirby, K. N., & Marakovic, N. N. (1996). Delay-discounting probabilistic rewards: Rates decrease as amounts increase. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 3, 100–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kirby, K. N., Petry, N. M., & Bickel, W. K. (1999). Heroin addicts have higher discount rates for delayed rewards than non-drug-using controls. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128, 78–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Lawson, D., & Henderson, B. B. (2015). The costs of texting in the classroom. College Teaching, 63, 119–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. McCoy, B. R. (2013). Digital distractions in the classroom: Student classroom use of digital Devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 4, 5–14. Retrieved from Accessed 27 May 2020.

  22. National Safety Council. (2015). Annual Estimate of Cell Phone Crashes 2013. Retrieved from Accessed 27 May 2020.

  23. Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 15583–15587.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Redner, R., Lang, L. M., & Brandt, K. P. (2019). Evaluation of an electronics intervention on electronics use in a college classroom. Behavior Analysis: Research & Practice, 20(1), 4–12.

  25. Reed, D. D., Becirevic, A., Atchley, P., Kaplan, B. A., & Liese, B. S. (2016). Validation of a novel delay discounting of text messaging questionnaire. The Psychological Record, 66, 253–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Steinberg, L., Graham, S., O’Brien, L., Woolard, J., Cauffman, E., & Banich, M. (2009). Age differences in future orientation and delay discounting. Child Development, 80, 28–44.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Tindell, D. R., & Bohlander, R. W. (2012). The use and abuse of cell phones and text messaging in the classroom: A survey of college students. College Teaching, 60, 1–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. White, T. J., Redner, R., Skelly, J. M., & Higgins, S. T. (2014). Examining educational attainment, prepregnancy smoking rate, and delay discounting as predictors of spontaneous quitting among pregnant smokers. Experimental & Clinical Psychopharmacology, 22, 384–391.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Yoon, J. H., & Higgins, S. T. (2008). Turning k on its head: Comments on use of an ED50 in delay discounting research. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 95, 169–172.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ryan Redner.

Ethics declarations

Research involved human subjects.

This study was reviewed and considered exempt by the University’s Human Subject’s Committee.

Conflicts of Interest

Authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Availability of Data

If anyone is interested in the blinded dataset please email the corresponding author.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 18 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Redner, R., Hirst, J. Preliminary Evaluation of Delay Discounting and Cell Phone Use in the College Classroom. Psychol Rec 71, 191–198 (2021).

Download citation


  • Delay discounting
  • Impulsivity
  • Cell phone use
  • College classroom