Distinguishing Reactive versus Reflective Autonomy


  • This research was funded by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada and the Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide a la Recherche (FCAR-Quebec) to Richard Koestner. Support was also provided by a McGill faculty grant to Richard Koestner. Gaëtan Losier was supported by a graduate fellowship from the SSHRC. We would like to thank Michael Ashton, Laurel Gordon, and Erica Krane for their help in collecting the data in Studies 1, 2, and 3, respectively. We would also like to thank John Lydon, Donald Taylor, Robert Vallerand, and David Zuroff for their helpful comments on an earlier presentation of this work.

concerning this manuscript should be sent to Richard Koestner, McGill University, Department of Psychology, 1205 Dr. Penfield Avenue, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 1B1. E-mail: inkr@musich.mcgill.ca.


ABSTRACT The present study distinguished reactive and reflective conceptions of autonomy. Following Henry Murray, personality theorists such as Gough and Heilbrun (1983) have emphasized the interpersonal and reactive aspects of autonomy, defining it as an orientation to act independently of others. More recently, Deci and Ryan (1991) highlighted the intrapersonal and reflective aspects of autonomy, describing it in terms of experiencing a sense of choicefulness about one's actions. Study 1 showed that measures derived from the two conceptions of autonomy are loosely related and that only reactive autonomy is associated with the Big Five trait factors of personality. Study 2 used an interval-contingent experience sampling methodology to show that reactive and reflective autonomy relate in different ways to daily affect and to the use of mood regulation strategies. Study 3 used an event-contingent experience sampling methodology to show that the social experiences associated with the two types of autonomy varied as a function of whether the interactions involved peers or authority figures. Together, the studies demonstrate the importance of distinguishing reactive and reflective conceptions of autonomy.