A functional analysis of personal autonomy: How restricting ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ affects experienced agency and goal motivation

C. Zhang*, S. Sankaran, H. Aarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Personal autonomy is central to people's experiences of agency and abilities to actively take part in society. To address the challenges of supporting autonomy, we propose a functional model of autonomy, according to which the experience of agency is a function of the opportunity to determine what to do, when to act and how to act in goal-pursuit. We tested the model in three experiments where the three goal-pursuit components could be constrained by another person or an artificial intelligence (AI) agent. Results showed that removing any of the three components from one's own decisions reduced experienced agency (Study 1a and 1b) and lowered motivation to pursue goals in organisational contexts (Study 2). In comparison to the strong and robust main effects, interactions between the components and the effects of the source of restriction (human vs. AI) were negligible. Implications for personal autonomy, algorithmic decision-making and behaviour change interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-584
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Volume53
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Keywords

  • agency experiences
  • behaviour change
  • functional analysis
  • goal motivation
  • goal-directed behaviour
  • personal autonomy

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