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Age Differences in Future Orientation and Delay Discounting



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Errata Volume 81, Issue 3, 1024, Article first published online: 13 May 2010

  • This research was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice.

concerning this article should be addressed to Laurence Steinberg, Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122. Electronic mail may be sent to


Age differences in future orientation are examined in a sample of 935 individuals between 10 and 30 years using a delay discounting task as well as a new self-report measure. Younger adolescents consistently demonstrate a weaker orientation to the future than do individuals aged 16 and older, as reflected in their greater willingness to accept a smaller reward delivered sooner than a larger one that is delayed, and in their characterizations of themselves as less concerned about the future and less likely to anticipate the consequences of their decisions. Planning ahead, in contrast, continues to develop into young adulthood. Future studies should distinguish between future orientation and impulse control, which may have different neural underpinnings and follow different developmental timetables.