The Flipside of Comparative Payment Schemes
Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 13-190/I
32 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2013 Last revised: 29 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 2014
Comparative payment schemes and tournament-style promotion mechanisms are pervasive in the work place. We test experimentally whether they have a negative impact on people’s willingness to cooperate. Participants first perform in a simple task and then participate in a public goods game. The payment scheme for the task varies across treatment groups. Compared to a piece-rate scheme, individuals in a winner-takes-all competition are significantly less cooperative in the public goods game. A lottery treatment, where the winner is decided by luck, has the same effect. In a competition treatment with feedback, winners cooperate as little as participants in the other treatments, whereas losers cooperate even less. All three treatments lead to substantial losses in the realised social surplus from the public good while having no significant impact on performance. In a complementary experiment, we show that priming with competitive norms is the most likely mechanism behind our results.
Keywords: comparative pay; competition; cooperation; gender differences; incentive schemes
JEL Classification: D03, D23, J16, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation