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Does Motivation Trigger Autonomy, or Vice Versa?


  • Kameliia Petrova

    (Boston College)


Do firms use autonomy to motivate workers, or do they give autonomous jobs to workers who are already especially motivated? A standard result in economics is that firms offer autonomous jobs to promote worker motivation. But surprisingly, little attention has been given to the details of this practice of giving autonomy to especially motivated workers. In contrast, findings from social psychology demonstrate that how people handle new information is closely related to what motivates them. Does autonomy in fact trigger motivation? I argue in this study that motivation may trigger autonomy, and thus that firms may benefit from screening for intrinsically motivated workers. I assume that workers differ in their degree of motivation, and that motivated workers have a lower cost of processing information than unmotivated ones. While motivated workers concentrate on searching for available information, unmotivated ones focus on ignoring certain information as irrelevant. Therefore, firms would gain efficiency from giving the more motivated workers a higher degree of autonomy. This link between autonomy and motivation also has implications for non-monetary aspects of the job, such as forms of leadership style and job design.

Suggested Citation

  • Kameliia Petrova, 2005. "Does Motivation Trigger Autonomy, or Vice Versa?," Game Theory and Information 0510004, EconWPA, revised 03 Nov 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpga:0510004
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 27

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fehr, Ernst & Falk, Armin, 2002. "Psychological foundations of incentives," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 687-724, May.
    2. Frey, Bruno S & Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, 1997. "The Cost of Price Incentives: An Empirical Analysis of Motivation Crowding-Out," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 746-755, September.
    3. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    4. Jan Zabojnik, 2002. "Centralized and Decentralized Decision Making in Organizations," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-22, January.
    5. Heckman, James J, 1978. "Dummy Endogenous Variables in a Simultaneous Equation System," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(4), pages 931-959, July.
    6. Kevin Murdock, 2002. "Intrinsic Motivation and Optimal Incentive Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 650-671, Winter.
    7. Kreps, David M, 1997. "Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 359-364, May.
    8. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
    9. Roland BĂ©nabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
    10. Frey, Bruno S., 1997. "On the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic work motivation1," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 427-439, July.
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    More about this item


    Incentives; motivation; job-design; tasks and authoirity;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty

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