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Breaking monotony with meaning: Motivation in crowdsourcing markets

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  • Chandler, Dana
  • Kapelner, Adam
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    Abstract

    We conduct the first natural field experiment to explore the relationship between the “meaningfulness” of a task and worker effort. We employed about 2500 workers from Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online labor market, to label medical images. Although given an identical task, we experimentally manipulated how the task was framed. Subjects in the meaningful treatment were told that they were labeling tumor cells in order to assist medical researchers, subjects in the zero-context condition (the control group) were not told the purpose of the task, and, in stark contrast, subjects in the shredded treatment were not given context and were additionally told that their work would be discarded. We found that when a task was framed more meaningfully, workers were more likely to participate. We also found that the meaningful treatment increased the quantity of output (with an insignificant change in quality) while the shredded treatment decreased the quality of output (with no change in quantity). We believe these results will generalize to other short-term labor markets. Our study also discusses MTurk as an exciting platform for running natural field experiments in economics.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    Volume (Year): 90 (2013)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 123-133

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:90:y:2013:i:c:p:123-133

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

    Related research

    Keywords: Natural field experiment; Worker motivation; Crowdsourcing; Online labor markets;

    References

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    1. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Horton, John Joseph & Rand, David Gertler & Zeckhauser, Richard Jay, 2010. "The Online Laboratory: Conducting Experiments in a Real Labor Market," Scholarly Articles 4448876, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Kimmo Eriksson & Brent Simpson, 2010. "Emotional reactions to losing explain gender differences in entering a risky lottery," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(3), pages 159-163, June.
    4. Scott Stern, 2004. "Do Scientists Pay to Be Scientists?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(6), pages 835-853, June.
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    6. Steven Levitt & John List, 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," Artefactual Field Experiments 00079, The Field Experiments Website.
    7. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
    8. Uri Gneezy & John List, 2006. "Putting behavioral economics to work: Testing for gift exchange in labor markets using field experiments," Natural Field Experiments 00259, The Field Experiments Website.
    9. repec:feb:artefa:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
    11. Preston, Anne E, 1989. "The Nonprofit Worker in a For-Profit World," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 438-63, October.
    12. Ariely, Dan & Kamenica, Emir & Prelec, Drazen, 2008. "Man's search for meaning: The case of Legos," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 671-677, September.
    13. Gabriele Paolacci & Jesse Chandler & Panagiotis G. Ipeirotis, 2010. "Running experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(5), pages 411-419, August.
    14. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List, 2007. "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 153-174, Spring.
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