The concept of individual agency, or the degree of influence people have on their own outcomes, is a well-documented facet of human behavior. What is less known is the effect of individual agency in organizations. And more specifically, how increased agency within an organization affects how often individuals act prosocially, or with the intention of helping others.

These are the issues at play in a new study by Chicago Booth professor Eugene M. Caruso with support from the school’s Social Enterprise Initiative. Caruso theorizes that giving employees control over how resources are allocated in their company could change their interpretation of the situation, thereby shaping their levels of satisfaction and well-being. This could create a “win-win” situation, wherein both the decision-makers and those affected are more satisfied with the resulting outcomes. Caruso, along with Alex Shaw and Shohan Choshen-Hillel, will test this idea in both organizational hiring and charitable giving settings.

Caruso is an associate professor of behavior science at Booth. He has published several papers in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Psychological Science. Furthermore, Caruso received research funding as part of a three-year, $3.6 million project entitled "Enhancing the Human Experience through Behavioral Science: New Paths to Purpose.” This project research explores how people adopt, follow, and fulfill their intentions to accomplish something meaningful to the self. Caruso’s research focuses on perspective taking, time, emotions, and moral intuition.

The Social Enterprise Initiative at Chicago Booth supports the aspirations of students and alumni to impact social issues and furthers research on how institutions help solve global problems.