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Demand for decision autonomy and the desire to avoid responsibility in risky environments: Experimental evidence

Seda Ertac, Mert Gumren and Mehmet Gurdal

Journal of Economic Psychology, 2020, vol. 77, issue C

Abstract: This paper experimentally studies individuals’ willingness to pay for the authority to make risky decisions for themselves, and the willingness to take responsibility for others, as primary determinants of leadership willingness. We consider a setup involving a pair of individuals, where one individual is designated to make both parties’ decisions by default. Depending on treatment, either party can express a willingness to pay to change this situation. If one’s willingness to pay to make her own decision herself is positive (negative), we interpret it as a demand for autonomy (a desire to delegate). On the flip side, if one’s willingness to pay to avoid making a decision on behalf of another person is positive (negative), we interpret it as a desire to avoid responsibility (a demand for authority). We find that on average, individuals are willing to pay positive amounts of money to make their decisions themselves, and incur positive but smaller opportunity costs for the right to make decisions for others. Certain individual and contextual characteristics emerge as important predictors. Notably, (1) men are more likely to demand both autonomy and authority at the same time, (2) individuals with other regarding preferences are more likely to pay to avoid taking responsibility for others’ decisions when the probability of loss is high. Exploring differences between individuals’ own decisions and the decisions they make on behalf of others, we find that subjects with other-regarding preferences tend to “cautious-shift” when making decisions on behalf of others. Also, we find that individuals who would like to avoid responsibility also tend to “shift” their decisions when put in a decision-making role. The results have implications for the allocation of decision-making authority in pairs and leadership.

Keywords: Delegation; Responsibility; Experiments; Decision-making under risk; Gender; Leadership (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 C92 D81 J16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:77:y:2020:i:c:s0167487018306408

DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2019.102200

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