Delay and effort-based discounting, and the role of bodily awareness, in people experiencing long-term pain: A Cross-Sectional Study

Aleksandra M. Herman, Tasha R. Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Pain interventions typically include effortful exercise and long-term treatment – ie, short-term costs (effort) with delayed benefit (improved pain and/or function). Thus, understanding if long-term pain influences decision-making in context of delays and effort is essential given clear relevance to treatment uptake and/or adherence. We evaluated delay and effort attitudes in those experiencing chronic pain (n = 391) and in pain-free controls (n = 263). Additionally, we investigated the role of bodily sensation awareness and/or interpretation as potential contributing factors to altered decision-making. Volunteers completed three discounting questionnaires, assessing the influence of temporal delays (gains, losses) and effort on devaluation of monetary outcomes. Individuals with chronic pain had more short-sighted decisions for monetary gains, but not losses, and decreased willingness to undertake effort for monetary gains than the No Pain group. The Pain group had higher bodily sensation awareness and while this related to higher impulsivity, delay and effort discounting, neither awareness nor interpretation of bodily sensations interacted with pain levels or explained group differences in discounting behavior. These findings suggest that impaired delay and effort-based discounting is present in people with chronic pain, and that this may be driven by pain-induced changes, but not pain-induced enhancements in bodily sensation awareness and/or interpretation. Exploring the utility of interventions targeting discounting behavior is warranted. Data availability: Study materials are available here: Perspective: People with chronic pain make more short-sighted decisions (prefer less reward sooner) and decreased willingness to undertake effort (prefer less reward with little effort) for monetary gains than people without pain. Interventions targeting discounting behavior may help improve both uptake and adherence for evidence-based, effortful treatments, such as exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-500
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • bodily sensations awareness
  • chronic pain
  • delay discounting
  • impulsivity
  • interoception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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