The Malleability of Intertemporal Choice

Karolina M. Lempert, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Intertemporal choices are ubiquitous: people often have to choose between outcomes realized at different times. Although it is generally believed that people have stable tendencies toward being impulsive or patient, an emerging body of evidence indicates that intertemporal choice is malleable and can be profoundly influenced by context. How the choice is framed, or the state of the decision-maker at the time of choice, can induce a shift in preference. Framing effects are underpinned by allocation of attention to choice attributes, reference dependence, and time construal. Incidental affective states and prospection also influence intertemporal choice. We advocate that intertemporal choice models account for these context effects, and encourage the use of this knowledge to nudge people toward making more advantageous choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Affect
  • Context
  • Framing
  • Intertemporal choice
  • Temporal discounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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