Task Autonomy and Motivation

Last registered on November 04, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Task Autonomy and Motivation
Initial registration date
August 28, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
August 28, 2020, 9:48 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
November 04, 2022, 6:52 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Bonn
PI Affiliation
University of Bonn

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
We conduct an experiment to investigate how task autonomy affects intrinsic motivation. In the experiment, we study how autonomy affects performance directly through the opportunity to actively select a task in itself, as well as indirectly through the selection of a suitable task. Therefore, we investigate two complementing effects of task autonomy: an indirect (selection into tasks) and a direct effect (intrinsic motivation).
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Freyer, Timo, Jonas Radbruch and Sebastian Schaube. 2022. "Task Autonomy and Motivation." AEA RCT Registry. November 04. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6373-1.2
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
- Number of tasks completed by the subject (measured as the total number of tweets assessed and the total number of data rows transcribed)
- Time spent working by the subject
- Fraction of correctly completed tasks (only for one set of tasks)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Our experiment aims at establishing a direct effect of autonomy on intrinsic motivation and an overall effect on performance. To that end, we conduct a real-effort online experiment where subjects work on one out of two sets of tasks.
Experimental Design Details
Our experiment aims at establishing a direct effect of autonomy on intrinsic motivation and an overall effect on performance. To that end, we conduct a real-effort online experiment where subjects work on one out of two sets of tasks.

In order to identify the effect of interest, we will not only exogenously vary whether subjects can self-select their tasks or not, but also elicit all subjects' task preferences beforehand. We allocate subjects into three treatments: Treatments differ with regard to whether subjects can self-select their tasks (Self-Selected), are assigned their preferred tasks (Assigned-Preferred), or are assigned their non-preferred tasks (Assigned-Not-Preferred). Thereby, we not only eliminate selection into autonomy, but are also able to control for selection due to autonomy.

In a first stage we explain both sets of tasks and elicit preferences. In a second stage, subjects have to work for a minimum of 10 minutes on the tasks. Subjects can work as long as they wish to and are not informed when the minimum working time is reached. They have the opportunity to quit work by clicking on a button.

Subjects can choose between two different real effort tasks: The first one is a classic data entry task where subjects have to transfer student numbers by university and gender from German statistical yearbooks. Within the scope of the second task, subjects have to assess a set of tweets on the German fiscal debt brake with respect to different categories.

Subjects receive a flat payment of 5€ for their participation.
Randomization Method
randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
500 individuals, 1 work period per individual
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
We aim at n=200 participants for treatment Self-Selected, n=200 participants in treatment Assigned-Preferred that were assigned their preferred set of tasks. Additionally, we collect n=100 participants in treatment Assigned-Not-Preferred that were not assigned their preferred tasks, approximately n=50 for each set of tasks task.

Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents


MD5: f0a5f320a27f58deea63ef36dd721cfe

SHA1: 0a0c9b25287eaf1b91b83524c687f55d10dee526

Uploaded At: September 03, 2020


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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials