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Preference for Autonomy in Consumer Decision Making: On the Antecedents and the Consequences of Consumers' Relinquishment of Decision Control to Surrogates Open Access


Other title
personal causation
relinquishment of control
decision making
advice taking
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Usta, Murat
Supervisor and department
Häubl, Gerald (Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law)
Examining committee member and department
Fisher, Robert J. (Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law)
Pracejus, John (Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law)
Vohs, Kathleen D. (Department of Marketing and Logistics Management, University of Minnesota)
Wild, Cam (Centre for Health Promotion Studies)
Faculty of Business

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation investigates the psychological processes relevant to consumers’ relinquishment of decision control to surrogates (e.g., physician, financial advisor). While the first essay investigates the antecedents of relinquishing decision control to surrogates, the second essay focuses on the consequences of such relinquishment of control. The first essay proposes that a key reason for consumers’ reluctance to relinquish the control of their decisions to expert surrogates is that such relinquishment contradicts their inherent motivation to experience an internal perceived locus of causality (PLOC) for their decisions. Based on this, I hypothesize that consumers become more likely to relinquish decision control either (1) when their motivation to maintain an internal PLOC is weakened or (2) when contextual factors specific to the decision itself are present that shift the anticipated PLOC for it from internal to external. Evidence from three studies provides strong support for this theoretical framework. I show that consumers’ willingness to relinquish decision control increases when an external PLOC is induced directly (Study 1), when an external event restricts the set of available alternatives (Study 2), and when an incentive to choose a particular alternative is present (Study 3). Based on the self-regulatory strength model and prior research on self-esteem threats, the second essay predicts and shows that delegating decisions to surrogates depletes consumers’ limited self-regulatory resources more than making the same decisions independently, thus impairing their subsequent ability to exercise self-control. This is the case even though decision delegation actually requires less decision making effort than independent decision making (Study 1). However, the resource depleting effect of decision delegation vanishes when consumers have an opportunity to affirm their belief in free will (Study 2). Moreover, remembering a past decision that one delegated impairs self control more than remembering a decision that one made independently (Studies 3 and 4). The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
License granted by Murat Usta ( on 2010-09-29T06:04:58Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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