Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychological Sciences

Committee Chair

Robert W. Proctor

Committee Member 1

Torsten O. Reimer

Committee Member 2

Darryl W. Schneider

Committee Member 3

Richard Schweickert


In everyday life, many action outcomes and the information associated with them (e.g., the receiving time or probability) can be learned through description or experience. Experimental studies of choice behavior document distinct, and sometimes contradictory, deviations from maximization. For example, when people make decisions from described probabilities, they tend to overweight rare events. In contrast, when people make decisions from experienced outcomes, they tend to exhibit the opposite bias. People’s experience is always sequential and extended in time, whereas one-shot descriptions are not. Typically, the chance of something happening relies on individuals’ sampling from the past experience, indicating a probabilistic waiting. Thus, time itself may be an inherent and fundamental dimension that distinguishes risky choice selections on the basis of experience from those made on the basis of description. Choices involving delayed outcomes and choices involving probabilistic outcomes have been understood within the discounting framework and are well described by the same hyperboloid function. To the extent that a single function describes risky choice and delayed choice from description, one might expect that the way in which information is processed for risky choice from experience may also be similar to the choice selection associated with delays. The current study focused on delayed rewards selection, shedding light on a mental number line account for the temporal discounting and intertemporal preference differences across description and experience. I examined how temporal interval perception and expected action effects contribute or interact to support choice selection. Five laboratory experiments were conducted with introductory psychology students. Using a description paradigm, Experiments 1 and 2 revealed a temporal discounting in the seconds time-level. Using a within-subject design, Experiment 3 evaluated the temporal discounting as a function of decision type (i.e., decision from description vs. decision from experience). A description-experience gap was evident as predicted that expected affective outcomes mainly drove the delayed-rewards selection from experience. In Experiment 4, different participants completed the same task as in Experiment 3 but with prospective instructions of a memory test to promote the accurate encoding of temporal intervals. The description-experience gap was also evident. Experiment 5 used an acoustic action effect to promote temporal delay retrieval during action selection, which showed minimum effect on reducing the description-experience gap. Based on the combined findings in choice selection, decision time, and memory test, a mental number line account is proposed that explains the temporal discounting and the description-experience gap in terms of time representation. This account suggests that the mental number line may be responsible for the probability discounting and the description-experience gap of risky choices as well.