Decision makers often face choices whose consequences unfold over time. To explore the neural basis of such intertemporal choice behavior, we devised a novel two-alternative choice task with probabilistic reward delivery and contrasted two conditions that differed only in whether the outcome was revealed immediately or after some delay. In the immediate condition, we simply varied the reward probability of each option and the outcome was revealed immediately. In the delay condition, the outcome was revealed after a delay during which the reward probability was governed by a constant hazard rate. Functional imaging revealed a set of brain regions, such as the posterior cingulate cortex, parahippocampal gyri, and frontal pole, that exhibited activity uniquely associated with the temporal aspects of the task. This engagement of the so-called "default network" suggests that during intertemporal choice, decision makers simulate the impending delay via a process of prospection.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes