Performance Effects of Setting a High Reference Point for Peer‐Performance Comparison
Posted: 2 Aug 2018
Date Written: May 1, 2018
We conduct a field experiment, based on a registered report accepted by the Journal of Accounting Research, to test performance effects of setting a high reference point for peer‐performance comparison. Relative to providing the median as a reference point for online students to compare themselves to, providing the top quartile: damps performance for those below the median, boosts performance for those between the median and top quartile, and, in the case of outcome but not process comparison, boosts performance for those above the top quartile. We do not find that either reference point yields a greater average performance effect. However, providing the more effective reference point in each partition of initial performance yields a 40% greater performance effect than providing either reference point uniformly. Students access the online courses intermittently over the span of a year. Our effects derive from small portions of our treatment groups — 5% in the case of process comparison and 26% in the case of outcome comparison — who accessed treatment and who were, on average, more active leading up to and during our intervention.
Keywords: Relative Performance Information; Reference Points; Performance; Social Comparison
JEL Classification: C93; D91; I21; M41
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