Accountability One Step Removed

28 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2016

See all articles by Axel Sonntag

Axel Sonntag

University of Vienna - Vienna Center for Experimental Economics

Daniel John Zizzo

University of Queensland - School of Economics

Date Written: September 24, 2016


In a real effort lab and online team production experiment we analyze individual effort under different conditions of individual accountability. In a repeated setting workers receive a distorted signal about their co-players’ previous efforts. We vary the degree to which production can be directly traced back to a participant’s individual effort level or nature. We find that individuals produce much less and the decline of contributions over time is significantly steeper under full as compared to no personal accountability. However, in an additional condition, we allow for endogenous accountability and observe the highest output level. We conclude that accountability one step removed makes use of a deterrence effect of potential monitoring but without forcing subjects to learn about their under-performing peers, thus limiting the typical decline of contributions over time.

Keywords: online experiment, team production, imperfect observability, information acquisition

JEL Classification: C91, D82, M54

Suggested Citation

Sonntag, Axel and Zizzo, Daniel John, Accountability One Step Removed (September 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Axel Sonntag

University of Vienna - Vienna Center for Experimental Economics ( email )

Oskar-Morgenstern-Platz 1
Vienna, Vienna 1090

Daniel John Zizzo (Contact Author)

University of Queensland - School of Economics ( email )

St Lucia
Brisbane, Queensland 4072

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