Front Page Titles (by Subject) Autonomy, Motivation, and Buck-Passing - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Autonomy, Motivation, and “Buck-Passing” - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Autonomy, Motivation, and “Buck-Passing”
“Implications of the Buck-Passing Phenomenon for Reactance Theory.” Journal of Personality 45 (1977): 543–553.
According to reactance theory, whenever an important freedom has been threatened or eliminated, a person is motivated to protect or restore that freedom. However, individuals do not seem to seek to maintain or restore freedom when the situation involves a potential threat to themselves. The present study investigates whether a person would strive to reestablish or maintain freedom of choice in a situation which requires taking responsibility for decisions that have potentially negative consequences for others. Relinquishing freedom of choice under such circumstances can be viewed as “buck-passing.”
Three variables were manipulated in this study: (1) Participants either did or did not experience a threat to their freedom of choice; (2) The participants either were or were not told that they were responsible for the consequences to others; and (3) The outcomes to others could either be positive or negative in their effect. The findings of the study confirmed the buck-passing hypothesis. “When faced with responsibility for decisions which may have adverse outcomes for others, individuals will often relinquish their freedom of choice to others.” This result may account for the reluctance of members of a bureaucracy to take action even within their range of prerogatives when confronted with controversial situations that threaten negative consequences for others. This result also implies that citizens may permit government to abridge their freedoms if taking action could produce negative outcomes for others.
The results of this study also indicate that a person who attempts to limit the freedom of choice of others is likely to be evaluated less favorably than one who does not threaten freedom of choice.