Are the motivational effects of autonomy-supportive conditions universal? Contrasting results among Indians and Americans
Date of Issue2018
College of Business (Nanyang Business School)
In Western theories of motivation, autonomy is conceived as a universal motivator of human action; enhancing autonomy is expected to increase motivation panculturally. Using a novel online experimental paradigm that afforded a behavioral measure of motivation, we found that, contrary to this prevailing view, autonomy cues affect motivation differently among American and Indian corporate professionals. Autonomy-supportive instructions increased motivation among Americans but decreased motivation among Indians. The motivational Cue × Culture interaction was extraordinarily large; the populations exhibited little statistical overlap. A second study suggested that this interaction reflects culturally specific norms that are widely understood by members of the given culture. When evaluating messages to motivate workers, Indians, far more than Americans, preferred a message invoking obligations to one invoking autonomous personal choice norms. Results cast doubt on the claim, made regularly in both basic and applied psychology, that enhancing autonomy is a universally preferred method for boosting motivation.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
© 2018 Society for Personality and Social Psychology. All rights reserved. This paper was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and is made available with permission of Society for Personality and Social Psychology.