Making Decisions for Other People: The Problem of Judging Acceptable Levels of Risk

Nigel Harvey, Matt Twyman, Clare Harries


People often make judgments about the risk preferences of others. Doctors do so for patients, lawyers for clients, finance managers for investors, parents for children, carers for dependants. How are these judgments made? How do they relate to people's judgments about their own risk preferences? Research in other areas of social judgment has revealed that people are egocentric: they judge others in the same way that they judge themselves. In the domain of financial risk-taking, HSEE and WEBER (1997) found egocentrism when the judges could empathise with the other people. When they could not, judges assessed others' preferences to be much closer to risk neutrality. Our results for four non-financial domains (recreation, drug-taking, modes of transport, occupations) replicate HSEE and WEBER only for activities for which people show risk aversion. We discuss reasons for this and identify various factors that influence the size of self-other differences in judgments of risk acceptability.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0601266


risk preference; egocentrism; self-enhancement; proxy decision making; social judgement

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Copyright (c) 2006 Nigel Harvey, Matt Twyman, Clare Harries

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