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Incentive Schemes, Sorting, and Behavioral Biases of Employees: Experimental Evidence

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  • Ian Larkin
  • Stephen Leider

Abstract

We investigate how the convexity of a firm's incentives interacts with worker overconfidence to affect sorting decisions and performance. We demonstrate, experimentally, that overconfident employees are more likely to sort into a nonlinear incentive scheme over a linear one, even though this reduces pay for many subjects and despite the presence of clear feedback. Additionally, the linear scheme attracts demotivated, underconfident workers who perform below their ability. Our findings suggest that firms may design incentive schemes that adapt to the behavioral biases of employees to "sort in" ("sort away") attractive (unattractive) employees; such schemes may also reduce a firm's wage bill. (JEL D03, D83, J24, J31, M12)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 184-214

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:4:y:2012:i:2:p:184-214

Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.4.2.184
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  1. Dan Lovallo & Colin Camerer, 1999. "Overconfidence and Excess Entry: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 306-318, March.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 2003. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Labor and Demography 0305001, EconWPA.
  3. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2004. "Why Do Some Firms Give Stock Options To All Employees?: An Empirical Examination of Alternative Theories," Research Papers 1772r, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  4. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  5. Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin, 2010. "Performance Pay and Multi-dimensional Sorting - Productivity, Preferences and Gender," Research Memorandum 012, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  6. Michael D. Grubb, 2006. "Selling to Overconfident Consumers," Discussion Papers 06-018, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  7. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  8. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101, 08.
  9. Stefano DellaVigna, 2007. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," NBER Working Papers 13420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Anja Sautmann, 2011. "Contracts for Agents with Biased Beliefs: Some Theory and an Experiment," Working Papers 2011-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  11. Nekby, Lena & Thoursie, Peter Skogman & Vahtrik, Lars, 2008. "Gender and self-selection into a competitive environment: Are women more overconfident than men?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 405-407, September.
  12. Busenitz, Lowell W. & Barney, Jay B., 1997. "Differences between entrepreneurs and managers in large organizations: Biases and heuristics in strategic decision-making," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 9-30, January.
  13. Paul Oyer, 1998. "Fiscal Year Ends And Nonlinear Incentive Contracts: The Effect On Business Seasonality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 149-185, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Herz, Holger & Schunk, Daniel & Zehnder, Christian, 2014. "How do judgmental overconfidence and overoptimism shape innovative activity?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 1-23.
  2. Tzioumis, Konstantinos & Gee, Matthew, 2013. "Nonlinear incentives and mortgage officers’ decisions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 436-453.
  3. Harin, Alexander, 2014. "Problems of utility and prospect theories. A ”certain-uncertain” inconsistency of the random-lottery incentive system," MPRA Paper 55706, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Nava Ashraf & Oriana Bandiera & Kelsey Jack, 2012. "No Margin, no Mission? A Field Experiment on Incentives for public service delivery," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 035, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  5. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioural Labour Economics: Advances and Future Directions," IZA Discussion Papers 8263, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Sebastian Goerg & Sebastian Kube, 2012. "Goals (th)at Work – Goals, Monetary Incentives, and Workers’ Performance," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2012_19, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  7. Proeger, Till & Meub, Lukas, 2014. "Overconfidence as a social bias: Experimental evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 203-207.

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