The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged: a field experiment in an institutional setting

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1976 Aug;34(2):191-8. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.34.2.191.


A field experiment was conducted to assess the effects of enhanced personal responsibility and choice on a group of nursing home residents. It was expected that the debilitated condition of many of the aged residing in institutional settings is, at least in part, a result of living in a virtually decision-free environment and consequently is potentially reversible. Residents who were in the experimental group were given a communication emphasizing their responsibility for themselves, whereas the communication given to a second group stressed the staff's responsibility for them. In addition, to bolster the communication, the former group was given the freedom to make choices and the responsibility of caring for a plant rather than having decisions made and the plant taken care of for them by the staff, as was the case for the latter group. Questionnaire ratings and behavioral measures showed a significant improvement for the experimental group over the comparison group on alertness, active participation, and a general sense of well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Rehabilitation*
  • Social Behavior