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Does temporal discounting explain unhealthy behavior? A systematic review and reinforcement learning perspective.

Story, GW; Vlaev, I; Seymour, B; Darzi, A; Dolan, RJ; (2014) Does temporal discounting explain unhealthy behavior? A systematic review and reinforcement learning perspective. Front Behav Neurosci , 8 , Article 76. 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00076. Green open access

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Abstract

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.

Type: Article
Title: Does temporal discounting explain unhealthy behavior? A systematic review and reinforcement learning perspective.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00076
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00076
Additional information: © 2014 Story, Vlaev, Seymour, Darzi and Dolan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. PMCID: PMC3950931
Keywords: addiction, discounting, habit, health, hyperbolic, model-based, model-free, preference reversal
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1426325
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