Delay discounting is a commonly used behavioral measure of impulsive decision making and it has been shown that disturbed delay discounting is associated with drug dependence, problematic gambling, obesity and risk behavior. It is hypothesized that disturbed delay discounting may be due to aberrations in the subjective perception of time. In this study the associations were examined between subjective time estimation ability, impulsivity and substance use. A sample of healthy undergraduate students (N = 85) performed a time estimation task across 3 different intervals and completed a delay discounting questionnaire (MCQ). Substance use (alcohol and smoking) and personality characteristics reflecting impulsiveness (Eysenck-I7; BIS/BAS) were obtained via self-report. The results suggest that both delay discounting and degree of alcohol use are associated with time estimation abilities. There was a modest U-shaped association between delay discounting and one measure of time estimation (i.e., coefficient of variation). A higher, similar level of estimation error was found for both high and low delay discounting which can be seen as convergent evidence for the existence of a continuum of self-control, associated with behavioral risks and decision-making problems towards the extremes of the scale. Another measure of time estimation error (i.e., autocorrelation) was positively associated with alcohol use which implies a connection between time estimation and a risk factor for the development of alcohol use disorder. Findings suggest the existence of complex psychological associations between time estimation, impulsivity and addiction.

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Current Psychology
Department of Psychology

Stam, C.H. (C. Henrico), van der Veen, F.M, & Franken, I.H.A. (2020). Individual differences in time estimation are associated with delay discounting and alcohol use. Current Psychology. doi:10.1007/s12144-020-00899-7