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Workaholics and Dropouts in Organizations


  • Wieland Müller
  • Andrew Schotter


This paper reports the results of experiments designed to test the theory of the optimal composition of prizes in contests. In the aggregate the behavior of subjects is consistent with that predicted by the theory, but we find that such aggregate results mask an unexpected compositional effect on the individual level. Whereas theory predicts that subject efforts are continuous and increasing functions of ability, the actual efforts of our laboratory subjects bifurcate. Low-ability workers drop out and exert little or no effort, and high-ability workers try too hard. This bifurcation, which is masked by aggregation, can be explained by assuming loss aversion on the part of the subjects. (JEL: C92, D44, D72, D82, J31) (c) 2010 by the European Economic Association.
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Suggested Citation

  • Wieland Müller & Andrew Schotter, 2010. "Workaholics and Dropouts in Organizations," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 717-743, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:8:y:2010:i:4:p:717-743 DOI: j.1542-4774.2010.tb00538.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Leitner, Stephan & Rausch, Alexandra & Behrens, Doris A., 2017. "Distributed investment decisions and forecasting errors: An analysis based on a multi-agent simulation model," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 258(1), pages 279-294.
    2. Czibor, Eszter & Onderstal, Sander & Sloof, Randolph & van Praag, Mirjam C., 2014. "Does Relative Grading Help Male Students? Evidence from a Field Experiment in the Classroom," IZA Discussion Papers 8429, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Ashraf, Nava & Bandiera, Oriana & Lee, Scott S., 2014. "Awards unbundled: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 44-63.
    4. Zafer Akýn & Emin Karagözoðlu, 2015. "The Role of Goals and Feedback in Incentivizing Performance," IPEK Working Papers 1506, Ipek University, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2015.
    5. Shupp, Robert & Sheremeta, Roman M. & Schmidt, David & Walker, James, 2013. "Resource allocation contests: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 257-267.
    6. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2013. "Overbidding And Heterogeneous Behavior In Contest Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(3), pages 491-514, July.
    7. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "A survey of experimental research on contests, all-pay auctions and tournaments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(4), pages 609-669, December.
    8. Melis Kartal, 2015. "Laboratory elections with endogenous turnout: proportional representation versus majoritarian rule," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(3), pages 366-384, September.
    9. repec:eee:jeborg:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:361-373 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Chowdhury, Subhasish M. & Sheremeta, Roman M. & Turocy, Theodore L., 2014. "Overbidding and overspreading in rent-seeking experiments: Cost structure and prize allocation rules," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 224-238.
    11. Thomas Markussen & Ernesto Reuben & Jean‐Robert Tyran, 2014. "Competition, Cooperation and Collective Choice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 163-195, February.
    12. Curtis R. Price & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2015. "Endowment Origin, Demographic Effects, and Individual Preferences in Contests," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(3), pages 597-619, September.
    13. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2016. "The pros and cons of workplace tournaments," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 302-302, October.
    14. Andersson, Ola & Holm, Håkan J. & Wengström, Erik, 2016. "Grind or Gamble? An Experimental Analysis of Effort and Spread Seeking in Contests," Working Papers 2016:37, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    15. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Roman M. Sheremeta & Theodore L. Turocy, 2012. "Overdissipation and Convergence in Rent-seeking Experiments: Cost structure and prize allocation rules," Working Papers 12-13, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    16. repec:kap:expeco:v:20:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10683-016-9504-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Loukas Balafoutas & E. Glenn Dutcher & Florian Lindner & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2017. "The Optimal Allocation Of Prizes In Tournaments Of Heterogeneous Agents," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(1), pages 461-478, January.
    18. Fehr, Dietmar & Schmid, Julia, 2014. "Exclusion in the all-pay auction: An experimental investigation," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2014-206, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    19. Dutcher, E. Glenn & Balafoutas, Loukas & Lindner, Florian & Ryvkin, Dmitry & Sutter, Matthias, 2015. "Strive to be first or avoid being last: An experiment on relative performance incentives," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 39-56.
    20. Hyndman, Kyle & Ozbay, Erkut Y. & Sujarittanonta, Pacharasut, 2012. "Rent seeking with regretful agents: Theory and experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 866-878.
    21. Alexander W. Cappelen & Ulrik H. Nielsen & Erik Ø. Sørensen & Bertil Tungodden & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2012. "Give and Take in Dictator Games," Discussion Papers 12-05, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    22. James Andreoni & Andy Brownback, 2014. "Grading on a Curve, and other Effects of Group Size on All-Pay Auctions," NBER Working Papers 20184, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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