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Risk-taking tournaments - Theory and experimental evidence


  • Nieken, Petra
  • Sliwka, Dirk


We study risk-taking behavior in a simple two person tournament in a theoretical model as well as a laboratory experiment. First, a model is analyzed in which two agents simultaneously decide between a risky and a safe strategy and we allow for all possible degrees of correlation between the outcomes of the risky strategies. We show that risk-taking behavior crucially depends on this correlation as well as on the size of a potential lead of one of the contestants. We find that the experimental subjects acted mostly quite well in line with the derived theoretical predictions.

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  • Nieken, Petra & Sliwka, Dirk, 2010. "Risk-taking tournaments - Theory and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 254-268, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:31:y:2010:i:3:p:254-268

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Sutter, Matthias & Strassmair, Christina, 2009. "Communication, cooperation and collusion in team tournaments--An experimental study," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 506-525, May.
    3. Hans K. Hvide, 2002. "Tournament Rewards and Risk Taking," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 877-898, October.
    4. Alannah Orrison & Andrew Schotter & Keith Weigelt, 2004. "Multiperson Tournaments: An Experimental Examination," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(2), pages 268-279, February.
    5. Jeffrey Carpenter & Peter Hans Matthews & John Schirm, 2010. "Tournaments and Office Politics: Evidence from a Real Effort Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 504-517, March.
    6. Chevalier, Judith & Ellison, Glenn, 1997. "Risk Taking by Mutual Funds as a Response to Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1167-1200, December.
    7. Green, Jerry R & Stokey, Nancy L, 1983. "A Comparison of Tournaments and Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 349-364, June.
    8. Matthias Kräkel & Dirk Sliwka, 2004. "Risk Taking in Asymmetric Tournaments," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 5(1), pages 103-116, February.
    9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    10. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2003. "An experimental study on tournament design," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 443-464, August.
    11. Anil Gaba & Ajay Kalra, 1999. "Risk Behavior in Response to Quotas and Contests," Marketing Science, INFORMS, pages 417-434.
    12. Hvide, Hans K. & Kristiansen, Eirik G., 2003. "Risk taking in selection contests," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 172-179, January.
    13. Bull, Clive & Schotter, Andrew & Weigelt, Keith, 1987. "Tournaments and Piece Rates: An Experimental Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 1-33, February.
    14. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Taylor, Jonathan, 2003. "Risk-taking behavior in mutual fund tournaments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 373-383, March.
    16. Brown, Keith C & Harlow, W V & Starks, Laura T, 1996. " Of Tournaments and Temptations: An Analysis of Managerial Incentives in the Mutual Fund Industry," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(1), pages 85-110, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eriksen, Kristoffer W. & Kvaløy, Ola, 2014. "Myopic risk-taking in tournaments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 37-46.
    2. 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.
    3. Mueller-Langer, Frank & Andreoli-Versbach, Patrick, 2013. "Leading-effect vs. Risk-taking in Dynamic Tournaments: Evidence from a Real-life Randomized Experiment," Discussion Papers in Economics 15452, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    4. Stéphane Robin & Katerina Straznicka & Marie Claire Villeval, 2012. "Bubbles and Incentives : An Experiment on Asset Markets," Working Papers 1235, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    5. Fang, Dawei & Holmén, Martin & Kleinlercher, Daniel & Kirchler, Michael, 2017. "How tournament incentives affect asset markets: A comparison between winner-take-all tournaments and elimination contests," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 1-27.
    6. 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.
    7. Eriksen, Kristoffer W & Kvaløy, Ola, 2015. "2015/01 No guts, no glory: An experiment on excessive risk-taking by Kristoffer W. Eriksen and Ola Kvaløy," UiS Working Papers in Economics and Finance 2015/1, University of Stavanger.
    8. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    9. repec:wsi:qjfxxx:v:07:y:2017:i:02:n:s2010139217500045 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Dijk, Oege & Holmen, Martin & Kirchler, Michael, 2014. "Rank matters–The impact of social competition on portfolio choice," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 97-110.
    11. Christos Genakos & Mario Pagliero, 2012. "Interim Rank, Risk Taking, and Performance in Dynamic Tournaments," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(4), pages 782-813.
    12. Philip Brookins & Jennifer Brown & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2016. "Peer Information and Risk-taking under Competitive and Non-competitive Pay Schemes," NBER Working Papers 22486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Genakos, Christos & Pagliero, Mario, 2009. "Risk taking and performance in multistage tournaments: evidence from weightlifting competitions," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28599, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    14. repec:eee:corfin:v:44:y:2017:i:c:p:506-523 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Tournaments Competition Risk-taking Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights


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