The Role of Autonomy and Reactance for Nudging - Experimentally Comparing Defaults to Recommendations and Mandates

41 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2019

See all articles by Hendrik Bruns

Hendrik Bruns

University of Hamburg - School of Business, Economics and Social Sciences

Grischa Perino

University of Hamburg

Date Written: August 25, 2019

Abstract

Frequently, scholars and decision-makers criticize behavioral public policies for infringing on behavioral autonomy. This paper provides evidence from an online framed field experiment, in which participants encountered a recommendation, a default value, or a mandatory minimum contribution accompanied by varying information on the regulator, before contributing to climate protection and answering an autonomy-related questionnaire. Our findings show that decision-makers perceive defaults as more freedom threatening but not more annoying than recommendations. They perceive mandatory minimum contributions as more threatening to freedom and annoying than defaults. Intrinsic motivation moderates these differences. Framing the regulator as an expert reduces perceived threat to freedom and felt anger, while political source framing has no effect. We also provide suggestive, exploratory, correlational evidence on potential reasons that defaults reduce contributions more than other interventions for highly motivated people. A mediated moderation analysis shows that this is partly because subjects rate the default as more threatening and because this makes them angry. However, the latter finding has important caveats and demands for future research. Findings improve our understanding of how the effectiveness of behavioral interventions depends on decision-makers' perceptions and how this can be leveraged by policymakers.

Keywords: autonomy, climate protection, control aversion, experiment, default, nudge, public good, reactance

JEL Classification: D03, H41, Q54, Q58

Suggested Citation

Bruns, Hendrik and Perino, Grischa, The Role of Autonomy and Reactance for Nudging - Experimentally Comparing Defaults to Recommendations and Mandates (August 25, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3442465 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3442465

Hendrik Bruns (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg - School of Business, Economics and Social Sciences ( email )

Welckerstrasse 8
Hamburg, D-20354
Germany

Grischa Perino

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/gperinosite/

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