Risk preferences in surrogate decision making

Eleonore Batteux, Eamonn Ferguson, Richard J. Tunney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is growing evidence that decisions made on behalf of other people differ from the decisions we make for ourselves because we are less affected by the subjective experience of their outcome. As a result, the decisions we make for other people can be more optimal. This experiment investigated surrogate decision making using a probability discounting task where participants made choices between risky and sure options. Psychological distance between the decision maker and the recipient was manipulated by having participants make decisions for themselves, their friend, and another unknown participant. Risk preferences were closer to neutrality (i.e., more consistent with expected value) when making decisions on behalf of another participant than when making decisions for themselves or a friend. We conclude that subjective risk preferences are attenuated in surrogate decision making. Findings are discussed in relation to inconsistencies in the literature and theories of surrogate decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-297
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Hogrefe Publishing. Distributed as a Hogrefe OpenMind article
under the license [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)]


  • Decision making
  • Probability discounting
  • Risk preferences
  • Surrogate decisions


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