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The evolution of cooperative norms: Evidence from a natural field experiment

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  • Orana Bandiera
  • Iwan Barankay
  • Imran Rasul

Abstract

We document the establishment and evolution of a cooperative norm among workers using evidence from a natural field experiment on a leading UK farm. Workers are paid according to a relative incentive scheme under which increasing individual effort raises a worker's own pay but imposes a negative externality on the pay of all co-workers, thus creating a rationale for cooperation. As a counterfactual, we analyze worker behavior when workers are paid piece rates and thus have no incentive to cooperate. We find that workers cooperate more as their exposure to the relative incentive scheme increases. We also find that individual and group exposure are substitutes, namely workers who work alongside colleagues with higher exposure cooperate more. Shocks to the workforce in the form of new worker arrivals disrupt cooperation in the short term but are then quickly integrated into the norm. Individual exposure, group exposure, and the arrival of new workers have no effect on productivity when workers and paid piece rates and there is no incentive to cooperate.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00210.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00210

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  1. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 2004. "Through Trial and Error to Collusion," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(1), pages 205-224, 02.
  2. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  3. Andreoni, James, 1988. "Why free ride? : Strategies and learning in public goods experiments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 291-304, December.
  4. John A. List, 2003. "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 41-71, February.
  5. Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Seki, Erika, 2005. "Competitive Work Environments and Social Preferences: Field Experimental Evidence from a Japanese Fishing Community," IZA Discussion Papers 1691, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. David Masclet & Charles Noussair & Steven Tucker & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2001. "Monetary and Non-Monetary Punishment in the Voluntary Contributions Mechanism," Post-Print halshs-00151423, HAL.
  7. John O. Ledyard, 1994. "Public Goods: A Survey of Experimental Research," Public Economics 9405003, EconWPA, revised 22 May 1994.
  8. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 1999. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 183, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Orana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2005. "Social preferences and the response to incentives: Evidence from personnel data," Natural Field Experiments 00212, The Field Experiments Website.
  10. John A. List, 2003. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," NBER Working Papers 9736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Robert Slonim & Alvin E. Roth, 1998. "Learning in High Stakes Ultimatum Games: An Experiment in the Slovak Republic," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 569-596, May.
  12. Isaac, R. Mark & McCue, Kenneth F. & Plott, Charles R., . "Public Goods Provision in an Experimental Environment," Working Papers 428, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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Cited by:
  1. Paul Dolan & Robert Metcalfe, 2013. "Neighbors, Knowledge, and Nuggets: Two Natural Field Experiments on the Role of Incentives on Energy Conservation," CEP Discussion Papers dp1222, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. John A. List, 2007. "Field Experiments: A Bridge Between Lab and Naturally-Occurring Data," NBER Working Papers 12992, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jim Engle-Warnick & Andreas Leibbrandt, 2006. "Who Gets The Last Word? An Experimental Study Of The Effect Of A Peer Review Process On The Expression Of Social Norms," Departmental Working Papers 2006-11, McGill University, Department of Economics.
  4. Donna Harris & Benedikt Herrmann & Andreas Kontoleon, 2009. "`Two's Company, Three's a Group' The impact of group identity and group size on in-group favouritism," Discussion Papers 2009-13, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  5. Stephen V. Burks & Jeffrey Carpenter & Lorenz Goette & Kristen Monaco & Aldo Rustichini & Kay Porter, 2007. "Using Behavioral Economic Field Experiments at a Large Motor Carrier: The Context and Design of the Truckers and Turnover Project," NBER Working Papers 12976, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Mirella Damiani & Andrea Ricci, 2012. "The role of education of entrepreneurs on adoption of different contingent pay schemes: evidence from Italian firms," Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica 116/2013, Università di Perugia, Dipartimento Economia, Finanza e Statistica.
  7. Damiani, Mirella & Ricci, Andrea, 2013. "Entrepreneurs’ education and different variable pay schemes in Italian firms," MPRA Paper 46163, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Steven Levitt & John List, 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," Artefactual Field Experiments 00079, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Dolan, P. & Hallsworth, M. & Halpern, D. & King, D. & Metcalfe, R. & Vlaev, I., 2012. "Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 264-277.
  10. Donna Harris & Benedikt Herrmann, 2012. "When to Favour Your Own group? The Threats of Costly Punishments and In-group Favouritism," Economics Series Working Papers 628, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  11. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Monaco, Kristen & Porter, Kay & Rustichini, Aldo, 2007. "Using Behavioral Economic Experiments at a Large Motor Carrier: The Context and Design of the Truckers and Turnover Project," IZA Discussion Papers 2789, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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