Toward a Psychology of Surrogate Decision Making

Richard J. Tunney*, Fenja V. Ziegler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In everyday life, many of the decisions that we make are made on behalf of other people. A growing body of research suggests that we often, but not always, make different decisions on behalf of other people than the other person would choose. This is problematic in the practical case of legally designated surrogate decision makers, who may not meet the substituted judgment standard. Here, we review evidence from studies of surrogate decision making and examine the extent to which surrogate decision making accurately predicts the recipient’s wishes, or if it is an incomplete or distorted application of the surrogate’s own decision-making processes. We find no existing domain-general model of surrogate decision making. We propose a framework by which surrogate decision making can be assessed and a novel domain-general theory as a unifying explanatory concept for surrogate decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-885
Number of pages6
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

© Sage 2015. The final publication is available via Sage at


  • affect
  • emotion
  • family
  • health
  • interpersonal relations
  • judgment
  • reasoning
  • thinking


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