Robustness of Decision-Making Competence

Evidence from Two Measures and an 11-Year Longitudinal Study

Published in: Journal of Behavioral Decision Making [Epub December 2017]. doi: 10.1002/bdm.2059

by Andrew M. Parker, Wandi Bruine de Bruin, Baruch Fischhoff, Joshua A. Weller

Read More

Access further information on this document at John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Decision-making competence (DMC) is the ability to follow normative principles when making decisions. In a longitudinal analysis, we examine the robustness of DMC over time, as measured by two batteries of paper-and-pencil tasks. Participants completed the youth version (Y-DMC) at age 19 and/or the adult version (A-DMC) 11 years later at age 30, as part of a larger longitudinal study. Both measures are composed of tasks adapted from ones used in experimental studies of decision-making skills. Results supported the robustness of these measures and the usefulness of the construct. Response patterns for Y-DMC were similar to those observed with a smaller initial sample drawn from the same population. Response patterns for A-DMC were similar to those observed with an earlier community sample. Y-DMC and A-DMC were significantly correlated, for participants who completed both measures, 11 years apart, even after controlling for measures of cognitive ability. Nomological validity was observed in correlations of scores on both tests with measures of cognitive ability, cognitive style, and environmental factors with predicted relationships to DMC, including household socioeconomic status, neighborhood disadvantage, and paternal substance abuse. Higher Y-DMC and A-DMC scores were also associated with lower rates of potentially risky and antisocial behaviors, including adolescent delinquency, cannabis use, and early sexual behavior. Thus, the Y-DMC and A-DMC measures appear to capture a relatively stable, measurable construct that increases with supportive environmental factors and is associated with constructive behaviors.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.