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Large Stakes and Big Mistakes


  • Dan Ariely
  • Uri Gneezy
  • George Loewenstein
  • Nina Mazar


Workers in a wide variety of jobs are paid based on performance, which is commonly seen as enhancing effort and productivity relative to non-contingent pay schemes. However, psychological research suggests that excessive rewards can, in some cases, result in a decline in performance. To test whether very high monetary rewards can decrease performance, we conducted a set of experiments in the U.S. and in India in which subjects worked on different tasks and received performance-contingent payments that varied in amount from small to very large relative to their typical levels of pay. With some important exceptions, very high reward levels had a detrimental effect on performance. Copyright , Wiley-Blackwell.

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  • Dan Ariely & Uri Gneezy & George Loewenstein & Nina Mazar, 2009. "Large Stakes and Big Mistakes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 451-469.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:76:y:2009:i:2:p:451-469

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
    2. Colin Camerer & Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein & Richard Thaler, 1997. "Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers: One Day at a Time," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 407-441.
    3. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
    4. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
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