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On The Relative Efficiency Of Performance Pay And Noncontingent Incentives


  • Uri Gneezy
  • Pedro Rey-Biel


We report evidence from a large field experiment that compares the effectiveness of contingent and noncontingent incentives in eliciting costly effort for a large range of payment levels. The company with which we worked sent 7,250 letters asking customers to complete a survey. Some letters promised to pay amounts ranging from $1 to $30 upon compliance (contingent incentives), whereas others already contained the money in the request envelopes (noncontingent incentives). Compared to no payment, very small contingent payments lower the response rate while small noncontingent payments raise the response rate. As expected, response rates rise with the size of the incentive offered. The response rate in the noncontingent incentives rises more rapidly for low amounts of incentive, but then flattens out and reaches lower levels than under contingent payments. We discuss how the optimal policy regarding the use of each size and type of incentives crucially depends on firms’ objectives.

Suggested Citation

  • Uri Gneezy & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2014. "On The Relative Efficiency Of Performance Pay And Noncontingent Incentives," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 62-72, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:12:y:2014:i:1:p:62-72

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    Cited by:

    1. Aurélie BONEIN, 2014. "Social Comparison and Peer effects with Heterogeneous Ability," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 201411, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
    2. Julian Conrads & Tommaso Reggiani & Rainer Michael Rilke, 2015. "Reducing Ambiguity in Lotteries: That Knowing is Better than Wondering," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series 06-03, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences.
    3. Delfgaauw, Josse & Dur, Robert & Souverijn, Michiel, 2017. "Team Incentives, Task Assignment, and Performance: A Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 11228, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Bradler, Christiane & Neckermann, Susanne, 2016. "The magic of the personal touch: Field experimental evidence on money appreciation as gifts," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-043, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    5. Christiane Bradler & Susanne Neckermann, 2016. "The Magic of the Personal Touch: Field Experimental Evidence on Money and Appreciation as Gifts," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-045/VII, Tinbergen Institute.

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