Active and passive waiting in impulsive choice: Effects of fixed-interval and fixed-time delays

Travis Smith, Anderson Fitch, Aubrey Deavours, Kimberly Kirkpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Behavioral interventions to improve self-control, preference for a larger-later (LL) reward over a smaller-sooner (SS) reward, involve experience with delayed rewards. Whether they involve timing processes remains controversial. In rats, there have been inconsistent results on whether timing processes may be involved in intervention-induced improvements in self-control. Interventions that improved self-control with corresponding timing improvements used fixed-interval (FI) delays, whereas interventions that failed to find corresponding timing improvements used fixed-time (FT) delays. The FI schedule includes a response contingency (active waiting), whereas the FT schedule delivers reward automatically (passive waiting). The present study compared the effects of FI and FT schedules in interventions and impulsive choice tasks to evaluate effects on self-control and timing behavior. The impulsive choice task evaluated preference for an SS option (one pellet after 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, and 30-s delays) versus an LL option (two pellets after a 30-s delay). The intervention task included forced-choice SS (one pellet after 10 s) and LL (two pellets after 30 s) sessions under FI or FT schedules. FI schedules produced greater sensitivity to SS delay in the impulsive choice task. Both FI and FT interventions increased LL choices. Following choice testing, temporal bisection and peak interval tasks revealed better timing precision for rats with an FI delay experience. Overall, the FI choice contingency was associated with improved temporal attention and timing precision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLearning and Behavior
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Active waiting
  • Delay discounting
  • Impulsive choice
  • Passive waiting
  • Rat
  • Timing

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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