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Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment

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Abstract

In this paper we experimentally test whether competing for a desired reward does not only affect individuals’ performance, but also their tendency to cheat. Recent doping scandals in sports as well as forgery and plagiarism scandals in academia have been partially explained by „competitive pressures“, which suggests a link between competition and cheating. In our experiment subjects conduct a task where they have the possibility to make use of illegitimate tools to better their results. We find that women react much stronger to competitive pressure by increasing their cheating activity while there is no overall sex difference in cheating. However, the effect of competition on women’s cheating behavior is entirely due to the fact that women, on average, are doing worse with respect to the assigned task. Indeed we find that it is the ability of an individual to conduct a particular task and not sex that crucially affects the reaction to competition. Poor performers significantly increase their cheating behavior under competition which may be a face-saving strategy or an attempt to retain a chance of winning.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series Economics working papers with number 2008-01.

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Date of creation: Jan 2008
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Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2008_01

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Keywords: competition; tournament; piece rate; cheating; experiment;

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References

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  1. 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.
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  19. Daniel S. Nagin & James B. Rebitzer & Seth Sanders & Lowell J. Taylor, 2002. "Monitoring, Motivation, and Management: The Determinants of Opportunistic Behavior in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 850-873, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Román Andrés Zárate, 2012. "Peer Effects, Cooperation and Competition in Human Capital Formation," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 009795, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.
  2. Pascual-Ezama, David & Prelec, Drazen & Dunfield, Derek, 2013. "Motivation, money, prestige and cheats," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 367-373.
  3. Gill, David & Prowse, Victoria & Vlassopoulos, Michael, 2013. "Cheating in the workplace: An experimental study of the impact of bonuses and productivity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 120-134.
  4. Nicolas R. Ziebarth & Gert G. Wagner, 2013. "Top-down v. Bottom-up: The Long-Term Impact of Government Ideology and Personal Experience on Values," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1280, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  5. Yiqun Wang, 2012. "Competition and Tax Evasion: A Cross Country Study," Economic Analysis and Policy (EAP), Queensland University of Technology (QUT), School of Economics and Finance, vol. 42(2), pages 189-208, September.
  6. Cartwright, Edward & Menezes, Matheus L.C., 2014. "Cheating to win: Dishonesty and the intensity of competition," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(1), pages 55-58.
  7. Charness, Gary & Masclet, David & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2013. "The Dark Side of Competition for Status," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt3858888w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  8. Pittarello, Andrea & Rubaltelli, Enrico & Rumiati, Rino, 2013. "You can’t be better than me: The role of the reference point in modulating people’s pursuit of wealth," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 65-76.
  9. Migheli, Matteo, 2010. "Gender at work: Productivity and incentives," POLIS Working Papers 142, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  10. Victor Manuel Bennett & Lamar Pierce & Jason A. Snyder & Michael W. Toffel, 2012. "Competition and Illicit Quality," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-071, Harvard Business School, revised May 2012.
  11. van Veldhuizen, R., 2013. "The influence of wages on public officials’ corruptibility: A laboratory investigation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 341-356.
  12. Nichols, Bridget Satinover, 2012. "The development, validation, and implications of a measure of consumer competitive arousal (CCAr)," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 192-205.
  13. Belot, Michèle & Schröder, Marina, 2013. "Sloppy work, lies and theft: A novel experimental design to study counterproductive behaviour," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 233-238.
  14. Van Yperen, Nico W. & Orehek, Edward, 2013. "Achievement goals in the workplace: Conceptualization, prevalence, profiles, and outcomes," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 71-79.
  15. Frick, Bernd, 2011. "Gender differences in competitiveness: Empirical evidence from professional distance running," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 389-398, June.
  16. Dato, Simon & Nieken, Petra, 2013. "Gender Differences in Competition and Sabotage," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79750, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  17. van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2013. "The influence of wages on public officials' corruptibility: A laboratory investigation," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2013-210, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  18. Steffen Keck & Natalia Karelaia, 2012. "Does competition foster trust? The role of tournament incentives," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 204-228, March.

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