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Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment

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  • Schwieren, Christiane
  • Weichselbaumer, Doris

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Schwieren, Christiane & Weichselbaumer, Doris, 2010. "Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 241-253, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:31:y:2010:i:3:p:241-253
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Competition Tournament Piece rate Cheating Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • 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
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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