Short vs. long-term budgeting

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A note for The Half-Lesson, "Your Brain Is Not for Thinking," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 11 is:

Sometimes your brain budgets for the short term, like when you drink coffee to stay up late and finish a project, knowing that you are borrowing energy that you’ll pay for tomorrow. Other times, your brain budgets for the long term....

The brain is always deciding between short term and long term spending and saving. How a brain decides between short and long term investments and rewards is usually discussed in terms of "intertemporal choice" or "temporal discounting." Temporal discounting is the idea that delayed rewards (rewards that will come in the future) lose some of their value when compared to rewards that are more immediate.

There is a huge scientific literature on this topic with gazillions of papers. Here are example references on various topics:

Many of the brain regions are the same as those that are important in computing value. Here's an example of how complicated it is.[10]


  1. Shadmehr, Reza. 2010. "Control of Movements and Temporal Discounting of Reward." Current Opinion in Neurobiology 2010 (20): 1–5.
  2. Shadmehr, Reza, Helen J. Huang, and Alaa A. Ahmed. 2016, "A Representation of Effort in Decision-Making and Motor Control." Current Biology 26: 1929–1934.
  3. Shadmehr, Reza, Thomas R. Reppert, Erik M. Summerside, Tehrim Yoon, and Alaa A. Ahmed. 2019. "Movement Vigor as a Reflection of Subjective Economic Utility." Trends in Neurosciences 42 (5): 323–336.
  4. Shenhav, Amitai, Sebastian Musslick, Falk Lieder, Wouter Kool, Thomas L. Griffiths, Jonathan D. Cohen, and Matthew M. Botvinick. 2017. "Toward a Rational and Mechanistic Account of Mental Effort." Annual Reviews 40: 99–124.
  5. O’Brien, Megan K. and Alaa A. Ahmed. 2019. Asymmetric Valuation of Gains and Losses in Effort-Based Decision Making. PLoS ONE 14 (10): e0223268.
  6. Białaszek, Wojciech, Przemysław Marcowski, and Paweł Ostaszewski. 2017. "Physical and Cognitive Effort Discounting Across Different Reward Magnitudes: Tests of Discounting Models." PloS One 12 (7): e0182353.
  7. Story, Giles, Ivo Vlaev, Ben Seymour, Ara Darzi, and Ray Dolan. 2014. "Does Temporal Discounting Explain Unhealthy Behavior? A Systematic Review and Reinforcement Learning Perspective." Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 8: 76.
  8. Badre, David, and Derek Evan Nee. “Frontal Cortex and the Hierarchical Control of Behavior.” 2018. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 22 (2): 170–188.
  9. Frost, Ralph, and Neil McNaughton. 2017. "The Neural Basis Of Delay Discounting: A Review and Preliminary Model." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 79: 48–65.
  10. Solway, Alec, Terry Lohrenz, and P. Read Montague. 2017. "Simulating Future Value in Intertemporal Choice." Scientific Reports 7: 43119.