WPI - Computer Science Department, MS Thesis Presentation, Peter Cordone "Using Visualization to Counteract Discounting"


Computer Science

Peter Cordone

MS Student

WPI – Computer Science


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Time: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Location: Unity Hall 445


Advisor: Prof. Daniel Reichman

Reader: Prof. Joseph Beck

Abstract :

When it comes to decisions between payoffs sooner or later in time, people tend to discount the later reward and choose the sooner option; even at the cost of larger later rewards.  Discounting can manifest itself in decisions regarding finance, health, life expectancy, and the environment, is ubiquitous, and transcends cultures. The quality of life can be negatively impacted, especially in later years, as the negative consequence of myopic decisions accumulate over time.  Intertemporal choice decisions are malleable and discounting can be counteracted by how attention is focused, how a reference point is framed, and how time is represented. 

Visualization offers a powerful tool that influence all three of these factors.  The goal of this research project is to understand if discounting can be counteracted in Money Earlier or Later (MEL) decisions through the use of visualization.  Can visualization be used to mentally zoom participants out causing them to choose the larger later amount more often?  To test this hypothesis, we conducted a between subjects study by recruiting participants through the online research platform Prolific and directed them to a Single Page React Application which presented them with three different treatments of eight MEL questions; a worded version found in much of the existing literature and a bar chart with and without the horizontal time axis extending past the larger later bar. 

 We found a small to medium effect in the bar chart with the extended time axis over the worded version and were closer to reaching statistical significance than the bar chart with no extended time axis.  These results can help guide us in creating bar chart visualizations of intertemporal choice decisions to influence people to choose the larger later option one out of six times.