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Adding a Stick to the Carrot? The Interaction of Bonuses and Fines

  • Ernst Fehr
  • Klaus M. Schmidt

In this paper we report on a principal-agent experiment where the principal can choose whether to rely on an unenforcable bonus contract or to combine the bonus contract with a fine if the agent’s effort falls below a minimum standard. We show that most principals do not use the fine and that the pure bonus contract is more efficient than the combined contract. Our experiment suggests that principals who are less fair are more likely to choose a combined contract and less likely to actually pay the announced bonus. This offers a new explanation for why explicit and implicit incentives are substitutes rather than complements.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 97 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 177-181

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:2:p:177-181
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.2.177
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  1. Ernst Fehr & Alexander Klein & Klaus M Schmidt, 2007. "Fairness and Contract Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 121-154, 01.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2004. "Fairness and Incentives in a Multi-task Principal-Agent Model," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 453-474, October.
  3. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2005. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," NBER Working Papers 11535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. E. Fehr & John A. List, . "The Hidden Costs and Returns of Incentives - Trust and Trustworthiness among CEOs," IEW - Working Papers 134, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Bettina Rockenbach, 2003. "Detrimental effects of sanctions on human altruism," Microeconomics 0305007, EconWPA.
  6. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
  7. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
  8. Fehr, Ernst & Klein, Alexander & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2007. "Fairness and contract design," Munich Reprints in Economics 20618, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
  10. Sliwka, Dirk, 2006. "Trust as a Signal of a Social Norm and the Hidden Costs of Incentive Schemes," IZA Discussion Papers 2293, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Michael Kosfeld & Armin Falk, 2006. "The Hidden Costs of Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1611-1630, December.
  12. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2004. "Fairness and incentives in a multi-task principal-agent model," Munich Reprints in Economics 20657, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  13. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Pay Enough Or Don'T Pay At All," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 791-810, August.
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