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Mixed up? that’s good for motivation

  • Alexander Koch


  • Eloïc Peyrache


An essential ingredient in models of career concerns is ex ante uncertainty about an agent's type. This paper shows how career concerns can arise even in the absence of any such ex ante uncertainty, if the unobservable actions that an agent takes influence his future productivity. By implementing effort in mixed strategies the principal can endogenously induce uncertainty about the agent's ex post productivity and generate reputational incentives. Our main result is that creating such ambiguity can be optimal for the principal, even though this exposes the agent to additional risk and reduces output. This finding demonstrates the importance of mixed strategies in contracting environments with imperfect commitment, which contrasts with standard agency models where implementing mixed strategy actions typically is not optimal if pure strategies are also implementable.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 34 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 107-125

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Handle: RePEc:spr:joecth:v:34:y:2008:i:1:p:107-125
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  1. John Fingleton, 2005. "Career Concerns of Bargainers," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 179-204, April.
  2. Dewatripont, Mathias & Jewitt, Ian & Tirole, Jean, 1999. "The Economics of Career Concerns, Part I: Comparing Information Structures," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 183-98, January.
  3. Fudenberg, Drew & Tirole, Jean, 1990. "Moral Hazard and Renegotiation in Agency Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1279-1319, November.
  4. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1998. "Incomplete Contracts and Strategic Ambiguity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 902-32, September.
  5. Fahad Khalil, 1997. "Auditing Without Commitment," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(4), pages 629-640, Winter.
  6. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1988. "The Dynamics of Incentive Contracts," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1153-75, September.
  7. Meyer, Margaret A & Vickers, John, 1995. "Performance Comparisons and Dynamic Incentives," CEPR Discussion Papers 1107, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Emmanuelle Auriol & Guido Friebel & Lambros Pechlivanos, 2002. "Career Concerns in Teams," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 289-307, Part.
  9. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-83, December.
  10. Borland, Jeff, 1992. " Career Concerns: Incentives and Endogenous Learning in Labour Markets," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(3), pages 251-70.
  11. Koessler, Frederic, 2004. "Strategic knowledge sharing in Bayesian games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 292-320, August.
  12. Bester, Helmut & Strausz, Roland, 2001. "Contracting with Imperfect Commitment and the Revelation Principle: The Single Agent Case," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 1077-98, July.
  13. Cremer, Jacques, 1995. "Arm's Length Relationships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 275-95, May.
  14. Shin Hyun Song, 1994. "The Burden of Proof in a Game of Persuasion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 253-264, October.
  15. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
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