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Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment

  • Schwieren, Christiane
  • Weichselbaumer, Doris

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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Psychology.

Volume (Year): 31 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 241-253

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Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:31:y:2010:i:3:p:241-253
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep

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  9. 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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  11. Datta Gupta, Nabanita & Poulsen, Anders & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 1833, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  13. Brandts, Jordi & Riedl, Arno & van Winden, Frans A.A.M., 2006. "Competition and Well-Being," CEPR Discussion Papers 5532, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  16. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
  17. Christine Harbring & Bernd Irlenbusch & Matthias Kräkel & Reinhard Selten, 2004. "Sabotage in Asymmetric Contests – An Experimental Analysis," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse12_2004, University of Bonn, Germany.
  18. Benno Torgler & Neven T. Valev, 2006. "Women and Illegal Activities: Gender Differences and Women?s Willingness to Comply over Time," CREMA Working Paper Series 2006-15, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  19. List, John A, et al, 2001. "Academic Economists Behaving Badly? A Survey on Three Areas of Unethical Behavior," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(1), pages 162-70, January.
  20. Günther, Christina & Ekinci, Neslihan Arslan & Schwieren, Christiane & Strobel, Martin, 2010. "Women can't jump?--An experiment on competitive attitudes and stereotype threat," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 395-401, September.
  21. Antonovics, Kate & Arcidiacono, Peter & Walsh, Randall, 2003. "Competing Against the Opposite Sex," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt0kx2f7xq, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  22. Joseph Price, 2008. "Gender Differences in the Response to Competition," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 61(3), pages 320-333, April.
  23. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2004. "Gender and Competition at a Young Age," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 377-381, May.
  24. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
  25. Vandegrift, Donald & Yavas, Abdullah, 2009. "Men, women, and competition: An experimental test of behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 554-570, October.
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