Stress, Intertemporal Choice, and Mitigation Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mayank Agrawal, Joshua C. Peterson, Jonathan D. Cohen, Thomas L. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Delayed gratification is an important focus of research, given its potential relationship to forms of behavior, such as savings, susceptibility to addiction, and pro-social behaviors. The COVID-19 pandemic may be one of the most consequential recent examples of this phenomenon, with people’s willingness to delay gratification affecting their willingness to socially distance themselves. COVID-19 also provides a naturalistic context by which to evaluate the ecological validity of delayed gratification. This article outlines four large-scale online experiments (total N =12, 906) where we ask participants to perform Money Earlier or Later (MEL) decisions (e.g., $5 today vs. $10 tomorrow) and to also report stress measures and pandemic mitigation behaviors. We found that stress increases impulsivity and that less stressed and more patient individuals socially distanced more throughout the pandemic. These results help resolve longstanding theoretical debates in the MEL literature as well as provide policymakers with scientific evidence that can help inform response strategies in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2695-2702
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 20 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


  • COVID-19
  • delay discounting
  • delayed gratification
  • intertemporal choice
  • stress


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