Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Participant preference in interventions in occupational health psychology: Potential implications for autonomy

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Clare Barratt (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Cynthia Bertelsen (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Steve Jex (Committee Member0


Research in fields who aim to improve individual health demonstrates that allowing a participant to choose their intervention or treatment approach is typically associated with beneficial outcomes. However, this topic has not yet been researched in Occupational Health Psychology (OHP). This study examines the effects of incorporating participant preference into treatment selection for an OHP intervention and tests increased autonomy as a mediator that explains enhanced treatment outcomes. Hypotheses were tested in a randomized control trial comparing the effects of random assignment vs. self-selection into one of two stress management modules in a sample of 328 employed individuals recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The effects of incorporating participant preference were evaluated using both proximal (selfefficacy to manage work stress, intentions to follow program recommendations, and adherence to program recommendations) and distal (psychological health) outcome variables. A path analysis approach based on a group code mediator variable approach, which uses structural equation modeling to test mediators of experimental effects, was used to analyze data. Results indicate that autonomy mediated the relationship between preference and intervention outcomes for intention, adherence, and psychological health, but only when autonomy was measured with a single item measuring global autonomy with a sliding response scale. Results indicate that, despite some inconsistencies between models, there may be benefits to incorporating participant preference into OHP research or practice utilizing interventions.