What is it about?

Intertemporal choices are those in which the outcomes of available options are distributed over time. Such choices range from deceivingly simple (for example, if you are a debtor, whether you prefer to clear a debt sooner or later) to patently complex (for example, in your role as consumer, how you plan your consumption of goods, and payments for those goods, over time). We show how our understanding of those choices can be substantially improved, in scope and simplicity, by invoking the existence of time bias, which makes people willing to pay, or wanting to receive, a fixed amount of money for deferring exchanges of money and goods.

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Why is it important?

Theories of intertemporal choice have become very diverse in the general approach they take, and very fragmented in the explanations they offer for specific empirical findings, with no theory being able to accommodate all evidence available at this point. In a qualitative analysis, we develop a theory that is able to offer a comprehensive and parsimonious explanation of all available evidence. This is important progress in and of itself, but it also a strong promise of achieving a truly generalizable description of intertemporal choice in quantitative analyses.


This publication was a four-men effort over ten years, undergoing a radical transformation in the last year. Once the paper was completed, and accepted by the Psychological Review, I was unable to think for months on end. I would not do it all over, but I take great satisfaction and pride in being part of this research group, composed of Daniel Read, Craig Fox, Daniel Walter, and myself (in reverse order of authorship): The good spirits of this very diverse ensemble of remarkable individuals was a major motivation to see it through.

Marc Scholten
Universidade Europeia

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This page is a summary of: The unified tradeoff model., Psychological Review, March 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/rev0000458.
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