The Effort Discounting Task is a behavioral measure of the temporal discounting of effort, which is a tendency to prefer to expend greater effort at a later time over lesser effort at a sooner time. Participants make 18 decisions about when they will make a specified number of phone calls to the study center for monetary compensation of 500 KSH (equivalent to ~5 USD) to be received one month later after successfully completing the required effort from the chosen decision. These decisions occur over three timeframes: (1) two vs. four weeks from today, (2) today vs. four weeks from today, and (3) today vs. two weeks from today. There are six decisions to make for each timeframe. In these decisions, the earlier time always requires two calls, and the later time requires one, two, three, four, five, or six calls. The participant must make the calls between 6 pm and 10 pm, and, if multiple calls are required, they must be spaced apart by a minimum of 10 minutes to ensure that each call reflects a distinct effort. During the four-hour window in which participants can make the calls, they receive hourly reminders to minimize the potential confounder of forgetting, which is distinct from the key construct of effort discounting. Intertemporal choices over effort are then modeled using a quasi-hyperbolic discounting function following Laibson (1997), which allows for time-inconsistent preferences. From participants’ choices, two discounting parameters are estimated: First, the “present-bias” parameter, βi, which attaches special weight to immediate outcomes. βi = 1 implies no present bias, whereas βi < 1 implies present bias. The second parameter, δi, describes the rate at which future outcomes are devalued exponentially. For example, δi = 1 means that a participant behaves as if they are indifferent between making 2 calls today and 2 calls two weeks from today, whereas δi = .5 implies that the participant would be indifferent between 1 call today and 2 calls two weeks from today.
The Effort Discounting Task is a behavioral measure of the temporal discounting of effort. This construct is parallel to the temporal discounting of reward, which has been shown to be related to real-world behaviors such as greater drug use, lower exercise, and lower safety behaviors such as the tendency to wear a seat belt (Daugherty & Brase, 2010). Individual differences in the temporal discounting of effort may be related to self-regulation processes involved in mounting the necessary resources to expend effort in a timely way in order to achieve one’s goals. This construct, if modifiable, should therefore be studied as a potential mechanism of behavior change.
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Text Citation: Daugherty, J. R., & Brase, G. L. (2010). Taking time to be healthy: Predicting health behaviors with delay discounting and time perspective. Personality and Individual differences, 48(2), 202-207.
Text Citation: Laibson, D. (1997). Golden eggs and hyperbolic discounting. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(2), 443-478.
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The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) program seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization and maintenance of behavior change. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort will lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change. The SOBC program aims to implement a mechanisms-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research and to develop the tools required to implement such an approach. The experimental medicine approach involves: identifying an intervention target, developing measures to permit verification of the target, engaging the target through experimentation or intervention, and testing the degree to which target engagement produces the desired behavior change.
Within the SOBC Measures Repository, researchers have access to measures of mechanistic targets that have been (or are in the processing of being) validated by SOBC Research Network Members and other experts in the field. The SOBC Validation Process includes three important stages of evaluation for each proposed measure: Identification, Measurement, and Influence.
The first stage of validation requires a measure to be Identified within the field; there must be theoretical support for the specific measure of the proposed mechanistic target or potential mechanism of behavior change. This evidence may include references for the proposed measure, or theoretical support for the construct that the proposed measure is intended to assess. The second stage of validation requires demonstration that the level and change in level of the chosen mechanistic target can be Measured with the proposed measure (assay). For example, if the proposed measure is a questionnaire, the score on the measure should indicate the activity of the target process, and it must have strong psychometric properties. The third stage of validation requires demonstration that the measure can be Influenced; there must be evidence that the measured target is malleable and responsive to manipulation. Evidence relating to each stage includes at least one peer-reviewed publication or original data presentation (if no peer-reviewed research is available to support the claim) and is evaluated by SOBC Research Network Members and experts in the field.
Once a measure has gone through these three stages, it will then either be Validated or Not validated according to SOBC Research Network standards. If a measure is Validated, then change in the measured target was reliably associated with Behavior Change. If a measure is Not validated, then change in the measured target was not reliably associated with Behavior Change. Why would we share measures that are not validated? The SOBC Research Network values open, rigorous, and transparent research. Our goal is to make meaningful progress and develop replicable and effective interventions in behavior change science. Therefore, the SOBC sees value in providing other researchers in the field with information regarding measures that work and measures that fall short for specific targets. Further, a measure that is not validated for one target in one population may be validated in another target or population.
Want to learn more? For any questions regarding the SOBC Validation Process or Measures Repository, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Has the mechanism been identified as a potential target for behavior change? This section summarizes theoretical support for the mechanism.
Have the psychometric properties of this measure been assessed? This section includes information such as content validity, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability.
Has a study manipulation led to change in the mechanism? This section addresses evidence that this measure is modifiable by experimental manipulation or clinical intervention.
Has a change in this mechanism been associated with behavior change? This section addresses empirical evidence that causing change in the measure reliably produces subsequent behavior change.