Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Experimental Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

DeCaro, Daniel

Committee Member

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

LaJoie, A. Scott

Committee Member

Kolers, Avery

Author's Keywords

Faustian bargain; decision-making; value tradeoff; end-of-life


A Faustian Bargain refers to an individual making a “deal with the devil,” exchanging something moral or sacred for an unattainable earthly good. The Faustian Bargain has been used to describe a ubiquitous social dilemma inherent to human civilization: exchanging individual liberty for public goods (e.g., security) provided by societal leaders and governments (Ostrom, 1980). Research on Faustian Bargains often examines tradeoffs between outcome utility (i.e., value derived from the outcomes of a decision) and procedural utility (i.e., value derived from being involved in the decision process (e.g., Frey et al., 2004). Much of the research on Faustian Bargains has been conducted examining economic tradeoffs. DeCaro et al. (2020, 2022) have begun to examine Faustian Bargains for economic and social dilemmas. This dissertation aimed to expand upon the research of DeCaro et al. (2020, 2022) and to provide a basis for the formalization of the Faustian Bargain within the healthcare domain. Specifically, this dissertation explored basic thresholds of willingness to sacrifice freedom of choice for better outcomes. Participants were asked to select a physician they would prefer to be treated by based on outcome prognosis (Experiment 1) and efficacy rates (Experiment 2). Both experiments found that participants were willing to sacrifice freedom of choice for better outcomes, but entering the Faustian Bargain was scenario dependent. Moreover, individual differences in preference or value for medical decisional autonomy were found to influence physician choice. The dissertation provides support for offering medical patients the option to enter a Faustian Bargain with their medical care team, especially during tragic circumstances like end-of-life care.