Published on 02/02/2021
Thoughtful doubtful person thinking
  • Leading experimental cognitive psychologist to discuss the latest research into how people make decisions for other people
  • Professor Richard Tunney, Head of Psychology in the College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University, to deliver online public lecture
  • Lecture takes place on Tuesday 9 February 2021, as part of the Aston Talks series

Many of the decisions that we make in everyday life are made for the benefit of other people, such as children and older adults. However, research suggests that people often make decisions on behalf of other people that differ from those they would make for themselves.

Professor Tunney will examine how closely surrogate decision-making matches the recipient's wishes or is a projection of the surrogate's own preferences, when he delivers the next public lecture in the online series, Aston Talks, on Tuesday 9 February: “How we make decisions for other people”.

He will propose a novel domain-general theory as a unifying explanatory model of the surrogate decision-making process. The common factor affecting surrogate decision making appears to be psychological distance, which can improve judgement in some instances but impair it in others.

Professor Tunney will also describe some of the recent research conducted at Aston that explores discrepancies in moral judgments that arise from the surrogate decision-making process.

Professor Tunney explains: “At some stage in our lives, we all have to make decisions for other people. For example, parents need to make decisions that they believe to be in their children's best interest and next-of-kin need to make decisions regarding end-of-life care for loved ones.

“In these situations, we have to predict what others’ preferences might be and we are accountable for the level of risk we take on their behalf. This can cause practical problems and be a source of conflict especially within families.”

Professor Tunney joined the College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University in 2018 and is the Head of Psychology. He is an experimental cognitive psychologist by background.  Before joining Aston University, Professor Tunney held academic posts at the University of Nottingham, Keele University and University College London.

His research specialisms are in judgment and decision-making. In recent years, he has focused on surrogate decision-making (DMfO), behavioural addiction and impulsivity. Professor Tunney’s other research interests include: implicit learning and categorization, episodic memory, second-language acquisition, and pro-social behaviour.

The talk is part of the Aston Talks series, which showcases some of the research taking place at Aston University and its impact on society.

It is free to attend and open to all and will take place on Microsoft Teams Live from 18:30 to 19:30 on Tuesday 9 February 2021. Register your place in advance through Eventbrite.


Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long-established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive.

For media enquiries in relation to this release, contact Rebecca Hume, Press and PR Officer, on 07557 745416 or email

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