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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)

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Larkin & Stephen Leider, 2012. "Incentive Schemes, Sorting, and Behavioral Biases of Employees: Experimental Evidence," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 184-214, May.
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    3. Alan Benson, 2015. "Do Agents Game Their Agents' Behavior? Evidence from Sales Managers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 863-890.
    4. repec:iza:izawol:journl:2017:n:362 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Florian Englmaier & Katharina Schüßler, 2015. "Complementarities of HRM Practices - A Case for Employing Multiple Methods and Integrating Multiple Fields," CESifo Working Paper Series 5249, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Harin, Alexander, 2015. "Problems of utility and prospect theories. A “certain–uncertain” inconsistency within their experimental methods," MPRA Paper 67911, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Ian Larkin, 2014. "The Cost of High-Powered Incentives: Employee Gaming in Enterprise Software Sales," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(2), pages 199-227.
    8. Sebastian Goerg & Sebastian Kube, 2012. "Goals (th)at Work – Goals, Monetary Incentives, and Workers’ Performance," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2012_19, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    9. Harin, Alexander, 2016. "An inconsistency between certain outcomes and uncertain incentives within behavioral methods," MPRA Paper 75311, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Valeria Maggian & Antonio Nicolò, 2016. "The wrong man for the job: biased beliefs and job mismatching," Post-Print halshs-01324733, HAL.
    11. Proeger, Till & Meub, Lukas, 2014. "Overconfidence as a social bias: Experimental evidence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 203-207.
    12. Harin, Alexander, 2015. "Is Prelec’s function discontinuous at p = 1? (for the Einhorn Award of SJDM)," MPRA Paper 64672, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Ashraf, Nava & Bandiera, Oriana & Jack, B. Kelsey, 2014. "No margin, no mission? A field experiment on incentives for public service delivery," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 1-17.
    14. Jeannette Brosig-Koch & Nadja Kairies-Schwarz & Johanna Kokot, 2014. "Sorting into Physician Payment Schemes – A Laboratory Experiment," Ruhr Economic Papers 0529, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    15. repec:zbw:rwirep:0529 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Schüssler, Katharina, 2018. "The Influence of Overconfidence and Competition Neglect On Entry Into Competition," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 87, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    17. repec:oup:restud:v:82:y:2015:i:4:p:1309-1341. is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Pikulina, Elena & Renneboog, Luc & Tobler, Philippe N., 2017. "Overconfidence and investment: An experimental approach," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 175-192.
    19. Tzioumis, Konstantinos & Gee, Matthew, 2013. "Nonlinear incentives and mortgage officers’ decisions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 436-453.
    20. 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.
    21. Bradler, Christiane, 2015. "How creative are you? An experimental study on self-selection in a competitive incentive scheme for creative performance," ZEW Discussion Papers 15-021, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    22. Brown, Jason L. & Farrington, Sukari & Sprinkle, Geoffrey B., 2016. "Biased self-assessments, feedback, and employees' compensation plan choices," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 45-59.
    23. Hoffman, Mitchell & Burks, Stephen V., 2017. "Worker Overconfidence: Field Evidence and Implications for Employee Turnover and Returns from Training," IZA Discussion Papers 10794, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    24. Englmaier, Florian & Schüßler, Katharina, 2015. "Complementarities of HRM Practices," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 503, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation

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