Intrinsic Motivation and Expert Behavior

Published date01 September 2016
Date01 September 2016
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17coEhMb07fjZ0/input 519092AASXXX10.1177/0095399713519092Administration & SocietyZhu and Zhang
Administration & Society
2016, Vol. 48(7) 851 –882
Intrinsic Motivation and
© The Author(s) 2014
DOI: 10.1177/0095399713519092
Expert Behavior: Roles
of Individual Experts in
Wenling Participatory
Budgeting Reform in
Xufeng Zhu1 and Peipei Zhang2
Previous theories on expert involvement have been classically based on
the assumption of extrinsic influence-driven motivation. This article aims
to construct an expert behavior theory to bridge the gap between intrinsic
motivation and behavior of experts by identifying two dimensions, namely,
the attitudes toward two relationships, between theory and practice and
between experts and officials. These two intrinsic motivations determine the
four roles of individual experts, namely, technology communicators, theory
demonstrators, idea entrepreneurs, and knowledge brokers. The empirical
strategy is based on a comparative study of four experts who were involved
in the Wenling participatory budgeting reform in China.
intrinsic motivation, expert behavior, public decision-making consultation,
idea entrepreneur, Wenling participatory budgeting reform
1Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
2Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China
Corresponding Author:
Xufeng Zhu, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084,
People’s Republic of China.

Administration & Society 48(7)
Experts are special policy participants who are involved in the public deci-
sion-making process (Fischer, 1990; Weible, 2008). Previous theories on
expert involvement have been classically based on the assumption of influ-
ence-driven motivation (Batten et al., 2006; Lavertu, Walters, & Weimer,
2012; Martin, 1973). Literature on the relationship between expertise and
authority has focused on exploring the tendency of experts to play different
roles in public decision-making activities to maximize policy influence under
various objective conditions, such as political environments, characteristics
of policy domains, and organizational and personal resources (Meijer, Boon,
& Moors, 2013; Montpetit, 2008; Van Demme & Brans, 2012; Zhu, 2013).
However, behavior theory recognizes that the same objective conditions may
produce different behavioral patterns due to various motivational beliefs, val-
ues, and goals (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). Specifically, some experts involved
in the public decision-making process are unwilling to engage in politics
among stakeholders during consultation, whereas other experts exert efforts
in helping stakeholders design alternative solutions and implement the
schemes that are favorable to decision makers. A number of experts opt out
due to their unwillingness to amend their proposals to please the officials,
whereas other experts are willing to compromise with government officials
such that the government would adopt their suggestions. Some experts only
care about applying their knowledge into practice, whereas others pay more
attention to enriching theoretical knowledge when theories are applied in the
public decision-making process. Even under the conditions in which many
factors have been controlled, different experts still demonstrate various indi-
vidual behavioral patterns. However, some behavioral patterns of experts
cannot be explained using the theories based on the assumption of influence-
driven motivation. This situation encourages the researchers to consider an
in-depth investigation on the selected roles played by experts beyond influ-
ence-driven motivation. Unfortunately, previous studies on the impact of
various individual motivations on the formation of expert roles are scarce.
This article aims to explore an expert behavior theory to bridge the gap
between individual intrinsic motivation and expert behavior. According to
the classic definitions of extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in motivational
behavior theories, experts are extrinsically motivated to participate in public
decision-making process for the consequential rewards, especially for influ-
ence in related policy fields. The intrinsic motivation of experts is the inher-
ent perception of or belief in the value of behavior itself during participation
in the public decision-making process. This article theoretically demonstrates
that the differences in intrinsic motivations affect the behaviors of individual

Zhu and Zhang
experts and their role selection. Furthermore, we identify two dimensions of
expert intrinsic motivations, namely, the attitude toward the relationship
between theory and practice, and the attitude toward the relationship between
experts and officials. Consequently, we propose four models of expert roles,
namely, technology communicators, theory demonstrators, idea entrepre-
neurs, and knowledge brokers.
Empirically and methodologically, the traditional psychological approach
to research on motivation and individual behavior is to conduct behavioral
experiments by controlling many other external objective conditions (Danner
& Lonky, 1981; Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999; Shalley & Oldham, 1985;
Vallerand, 1997). Nevertheless, our study focuses on experts who are impos-
sible to be asked to participate in behavioral experiments given their lack of
time and interest in participating in such experiments. The empirical strategy
is based on a comparative study of different experts who were simultaneously
involved in one case of public decision-making consultation. Hence, other
confounding external and objective factors have been controlled. Following
such research design, we selected the case of the participatory budgeting
reform in Wenling City in Zhejiang Province of China. We interviewed the
key experts and officials of local governments and local People’s Congresses
who were involved in the reform to understand the four roles of individual
experts with different intrinsic motivations.
Roles of Experts in Public Decision Making: Brief
Literature Review
Classic literature has assumed that expert roles are motivated by the pursuit
for influence in related policy fields (Batten et al., 2006; Lavertu et al., 2012;
Martin, 1973). To maximize policy influence, experts opt to play different
roles in public decision-making consultation according to various external
and objective conditions (Meijer et al., 2013; Montpetit, 2008; Van Demme
& Brans, 2012; Zhu, 2013). First, the roles of experts in public decision-
making change in the political environments in which the ambiguous bound-
ary between expertise and politics as understood by politicians and observers
is constantly changing (Guston, 2000; Stone, 2007). For instance, after World
War II, experts used to be described as “directors” of power based on the
theory of “technocracy,” a form of government in which experts participate
in decision making and are in control of (Fischer, 1990; Jones, 1996, p. 214;
Scott & Faulkner, 1984). Since the 1960s, the emerging view of “power sup-
porters” has suggested that public decisions made by politicians typically do
not count on the expertise, but on the general democratic process; experts can
only provide the technical evidence to support ethical debates and political

Administration & Society 48(7)
perspectives (Haller & Gerrie, 2007). Compared with the two extreme roles
of “directors” and “supporters,” more politicians and observers support the
view that experts play the role of “consultants” (or “advisors”) in the deci-
sion-making process (Cronin & Thomas, 1971; Lemieux, 1992). Studies
have indicated that as long as an expert plays the role of “advisor,” rather than
“director” or “supporter,” his role in influencing policy and building a mutu-
ally trusting relationship with officials is better defined (Burke, 2005; Cronin
& Thomas, 1971).
Characteristics at the policy domain, organizational, and personal lev-
els have also determined the expert roles that most efficiently influence
public decision making. For instance, many scholars have identified a
number of characteristics of policy domains that determine the influence
of expert roles in the public decision-making process, such as policy type
(distributive, redistributive, or market regulatory), policy orientation
(domestic, foreign, or defense), temporal dimension (urgent, short-term, or
long-term policy), knowledge features (complex, tacit, or lay knowledge),
and availability of resources (within the governmental jurisdiction only or
to specific actors outside; Meijer et al., 2013; Schooler, 1971; Webber,
1984; Yin & Moore, 1988; Zhu, 2013). In contrast, the different roles
played by experts are also constrained by the organizations where they
work and the resources they possess. Among all the resources experts
have, organizational and personal access to decision makers constitutes
the particularly important determinants of the influence of experts on the
policy-making process, not only in Western democratic countries (Keren,
1980; Landry, Amara, & Lamari, 2001) but also in China (Zhu, 2009).
Empirical studies conducted in China have indicated that the organiza-
tional administrative linkages and personal social networks facilitate the
experts’ strategic selection of direct or indirect channels to express their
opinions (Zhu, 2009, 2011).
Experts are capable of becoming active advocates of policy ideas to
improve their...

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