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Free to Choose: Testing the Pure Motivation Effect of Autonomous Choice

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Abstract

We conduct an experimental test of the long-standing conjecture that autonomy increases motivation and job performance. Subjects face a menu consisting of two projects: one risky and one safe. The probability that the risky project succeeds depends on the subject’s e?ort. In one treatment, subjects choose a project from the menu; in the other treatment, they are assigned a project from the menu. Using a di?erence-in-di?erence approach that controls for selection e?ects, we show that autonomy (the right to choose a project) has a signi?cant pure motivation e?ect on e?ort. The e?ect is consistent with aversion to anticipated regret, but not with standard expected-utility maximization. Futher, as predicted by regret theory, e?ort on the (chosen) risky project is increasing in the return to the (unchosen) safe project, and the pure motivation e?ect is greater, the riskier is the risky project. Finally, we ?nd a signi?cant negative relationship between the strength of the pure motivation e?ect and the subjects’ expected earnings. Classification-

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  • Tomas Sjöström & Levent Ülkü & Radovan Vadovic, 2017. "Free to Choose: Testing the Pure Motivation Effect of Autonomous Choice," Carleton Economic Papers 17-11, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:17-11
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