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Loss aversion and the quantity–quality tradeoff

Author

Listed:
  • Jared Rubin

    (Chapman University One University Drive)

  • Anya Samek

    (University of Southern California)

  • Roman M. Sheremeta

    (Case Western Reserve University)

Abstract

Firms face an optimization problem that requires a maximal quantity output given a quality constraint. But how do firms incentivize quantity and quality to meet these dual goals, and what role do behavioral factors, such as loss aversion, play in the tradeoffs workers face? We address these questions with a theoretical model and an experiment in which participants are paid for both quantity and quality of a real effort task. Consistent with basic economic theory, higher quality incentives encourage participants to shift their attention from quantity to quality. However, we also find that loss averse participants shift their attention from quality to quantity to a greater degree when quality is weakly incentivized. These results can inform managers of appropriate ways to structure contracts, and suggest benefits to personalizing contracts based on individual behavioral characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Jared Rubin & Anya Samek & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2018. "Loss aversion and the quantity–quality tradeoff," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 21(2), pages 292-315, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:21:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10683-017-9544-1
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-017-9544-1
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    2. Balmaceda, Felipe, 2018. "Optimal task assignments with loss-averse agents," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 1-26.
    3. Bulte, Erwin & List, John A. & van Soest, Daan, 2021. "Incentive spillovers in the workplace: Evidence from two field experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 184(C), pages 137-149.
    4. Ro’i Zultan & Eldar Dadon, 2023. "Missing the forest for the trees: when monitoring quantitative measures distorts task prioritization," Working Papers 2319, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.
    5. Eszter Czibor & Danny Hsu & David Jimenez-Gomez & Susanne Neckermann & Burcu Subasi, 2022. "Loss-Framed Incentives and Employee (Mis-)Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 68(10), pages 7518-7537, October.
    6. Cardella, Eric & Roomets, Alex, 2022. "Pay distribution preferences and productivity effects: An experiment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 96(C).
    7. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González, 2019. "Revisiting the Trade-off Between Risk and Incentives: The Shocking Effect of Random Shocks?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 65(3), pages 1096-1114, March.
    8. Ahrens, Steffen & Bitter, Lea & Bosch-Rosa, Ciril, 2023. "Coordination under loss contracts," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 270-293.
    9. Lamar Pierce & Alex Rees-Jones & Charlotte Blank, 2020. "The Negative Consequences of Loss-Framed Performance Incentives," NBER Working Papers 26619, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Ahrens, Steffen & Bosch-Rosa, Ciril, 2023. "Motivated beliefs, social preferences, and limited liability in financial decision-Making," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 154(C).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Quantity; Quality; Experiment; Incentives; Real effort; Loss aversion;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • 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
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts

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