Financial Surrogate Decision Making: Lessons from Applied Experimental Philosophy

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© 2016 Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid. An estimated 1 in 4 elderly Americans need a surrogate to make decisions at least once in their lives. With an aging population, that number is almost certainly going to increase. This paper focuses on financial surrogate decision making. To illustrate some of the empirical and moral implications associated with financial surrogate decision making, two experiments suggest that default choice settings can predictably influence some surrogate financial decision making. Experiment 1 suggested that when making hypothetical financial decisions, surrogates tended to stay with default settings (OR = 4.37, 95% CI 1.52, 12.48). Experiment 2 replicated and extended this finding suggesting that in a different context (OR = 2.27, 95% CI 1.1, 4.65). Experiment 2 also suggested that those who were more numerate were less likely to be influenced by default settings than the less numerate, but only when the decision is whether to opt in (p =.05). These data highlight the importance of a recent debate about nudging. Defaults are common methods to nudge people to make desirable choices while allowing the liberty to choose otherwise. Some of the ethics of using defalt settings to nudge surrogate decision makers are discussed.

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Spanish Journal of Psychology