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What Motivates Effort? Evidence and Expert Forecasts

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  • Stefano DellaVigna
  • Devin Pope

Abstract

How much do different monetary and non-monetary motivators induce costly effort? Does the effectiveness line up with the expectations of researchers and with results in the literature? We conduct a large-scale real-effort experiment with eighteen treatment arms. We examine the effect of (1) standard incentives; (2) behavioural factors like social preferences and reference dependence; and (3) non-monetary inducements from psychology. We find that (1) monetary incentives work largely as expected, including a very low piece rate treatment which does not crowd out effort; (2) the evidence is partly consistent with standard behavioural models, including warm glow, though we do not find evidence of probability weighting; (3) the psychological motivators are effective, but less so than incentives. We then compare the results to forecasts by 208 academic experts. On average, the experts anticipate several key features, like the effectiveness of psychological motivators. A sizeable share of experts, however, expects crowd-out, probability weighting, and pure altruism, counterfactually. As a further comparison, we present a meta-analysis of similar treatments in the literature. Overall, predictions based on the literature are correlated with, but underperform, the expert forecasts.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefano DellaVigna & Devin Pope, 2018. "What Motivates Effort? Evidence and Expert Forecasts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 1029-1069.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:85:y:2018:i:2:p:1029-1069.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdx033
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/699976 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Barron, Kai & Gravert, Christina, 2018. "Confidence and Career Choices: An Experiment," Working Papers in Economics 715, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    3. Stefano DellaVigna & Devin Pope, 2018. "Predicting Experimental Results: Who Knows What?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 126(6), pages 2410-2456.
    4. Alan Benson & Danielle Li & Kelly Shue, 2018. "Promotions and the Peter Principle," NBER Working Papers 24343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Isabel Thielmann & Daniel W. Heck & Benjamin E. Hilbig, 2016. "Anonymity and incentives: An investigation of techniques to reduce socially desirable responding in the Trust Game," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 11(5), pages 527-536, September.
    6. Marco Faillo & Luigi Mittone & Costanza Piovanelli, 2018. "Cash posters in the lab," CEEL Working Papers 1801, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
    7. Jonathan Quidt & Francesco Fallucchi & Felix Kölle & Daniele Nosenzo & Simone Quercia, 2017. "Bonus versus penalty: How robust are the effects of contract framing?," Journal of the Economic Science Association, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(2), pages 174-182, December.
    8. Xavier Gabaix, 2017. "Behavioral Inattention," NBER Working Papers 24096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Goerg, Sebastian J. & Kube, Sebastian & Radbruch, Jonas, 2017. "The Effectiveness of Incentive Schemes in the Presence of Implicit Effort Costs," IZA Discussion Papers 10546, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Barron, Kai & Gravert, Christina, 2019. "Confidence and career choices: An experiment," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2018-301r, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    11. Ganguli, Ina & Le Coq, Chloé & Huysentruyt, Marieke, 2018. "How Do Nascent Social Entrepreneurs Respond to Rewards? A Field Experiment on Motivations in a Grant Competition," SITE Working Paper Series 46, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Behavioural Economics; Experts; Real effort; Crowd-out; Charity; Probability weighting;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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