The Goldilocks Contract: The Synergistic Benefits of Combining Structure and Autonomy for Persistence, Creativity, and Cooperation Apr 27, 2017 By Eileen ChouNir HalevyAdam D. GalinskyJ. Keith Murnighan The Goldilocks Contract: The Synergistic Benefits of Combining Structure and Autonomy for Persistence, Creativity, and Cooperation Contracts are commonly used to regulate a wide range of interactions and relationships. Yet relying on contracts as a mechanism of control often comes at a cost to motivation. Integrating theoretical perspectives from psychology, economics, and organizational theory, we explore this control-motivation dilemma inherent in contracts and present the Contract-Autonomy-Motivation-Performance-Structure (CAMPS) model, which highlights the synergistic benefits of combining structure and autonomy. The model proposes that subtle reductions in the specificity of a contract’s language can boost autonomy, which increases intrinsic motivation and improves a range of desirable behaviors. Nine field and laboratory experiments found that less specific contracts increased task persistence, creativity, and cooperation, both immediately and longitudinally, because they boosted autonomy and intrinsic motivation. These positive effects, however, only occurred when contracts provided sufficient structure. Furthermore, the effects were limited to control-oriented clauses (i.e., legal clauses), and did not extend to coordination-oriented clauses (i.e., technical clauses). That is, there were synergistic benefits when a contract served as a scaffold that combined structure with general clauses. Overall, the current model and experiments identify a low-cost solution to the common problem of regulating social relationships: finding the right amount of contract specificity promotes desirable outcomes, including behaviors that are notoriously difficult to contract. The CAMPS model and the current set of empirical findings explain why, when, and how contracts can be used as an effective motivational tool. (PsycINFO Database Record Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Eileen Chou Chou’s research focuses on the organizational, social, and psychological forces that shape individual and group behavior in organizational settings. Read full bio Nir Halevy Adam D. Galinsky J. Keith Murnighan Related Content Eileen Chou Safety in Numbers: Why the Mere Physical Presence of Others Affects Risk‐taking Behaviors Research As social mammals, being in a group signals a state of relative security. Risk‐taking behavior in other social mammals formed the basis for our prediction that the mere physical presence of others, absent any social interaction, would create a psychological state of security that, in turn, would promote greater risk‐taking behavior. The Link Between Income Inequality and Physical Pain Research Photos: Daily Academic Life at UVA in the COVID-19 Era News University photographers take a look at in-person learning on Grounds, including Batten students and professors in the classroom, during a fall semester shaped by the ongoing pandemic.