Research Project

The ERC Project on the Behavioral Foundations of Power and Autonomy is divided into four key parts: (i) Methodology, (ii) Behavioral Foundations, (iii) Political and Economic Relevance and (iv) Organizational Implications. Below, we briefly introduce these parts.


In the first, methodological part of the ERC project, we will develop a simple and easily applicable experimental tool to measure preferences for power and autonomy. A main advantage of the new tool will be that it allows (i) to separately measure preferences for autonomy and for power and (ii) to clearly distinguish the instrumental and intrinsic value of autonomy and power. In other words, we will be able to measure an individual's preference for having autonomy (power), independent of whether it guarantees her an additional instrumental value by allowing her to choose her preferred outcomes. The goal is to create a measurement tool that is simple enough to be portable and applicable to different decision contexts so that it can be used in the lab as well as online or in the field with populations that differ in their educational and social backgrounds.

Behavioral Foundations

The second part of the ERC project is concerned with applications of our measurement tool. We will use it to investigate the determinants of preferences for autonomy and power. Intuitively, such preferences are highly influenced by the society and culture we live in as well as by the position of an individual in a society.

Political and Economic Relevance

The third part of the ERC project investigates the political implications of (differences in) preferences for autonomy and power. It is important to understand to what extend these preferences are systematically correlated with other preferences, especially a person's political preferences, her ideology and her support for regulative and welfare policies. They may also be predictive of important individual life choices, such as sorting into professions that grant more independence like academia or self-employment.

Organizational Implications

Finally, the ERC project will adress the fundamental question of how to optimally design organizations and institutions when preferences for autonomy and power are fully taken into account.


Publications and working papers

Press releases and media coverage