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Winner-Take-All and Proportional-Prize Contests: Theory and Experimental Results

Author

Listed:
  • Roman M. Sheremeta

    (Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University)

  • William A. Masters

    (Department of Food and Nutrition Policy, Tufts University)

  • Timothy N. Cason

    (Department of Economics, Krannert School of Management, Purdue University)

Abstract

This study provides a unified theoretical and experimental framework in which to compare three canonical types of competition: winner-take-all contests won by the best performer, winner-take-all lotteries where probability of success is proportional to performance, and proportional-prize contests in which rewards are shared in proportion to performance. We introduce random noise to reflect imperfect information, and collect independent measures of risk aversion, other-regarding preferences, and the utility of winning a contest. The main finding is that efforts are consistently higher with winner-take-all contests. The lottery contests have the same Nash equilibrium as proportional prizes, but induce contestants to choose higher efforts and receive lower, more unequal payoffs. This result may explain why contest designers who seek only to elicit effort offer lump-sum prizes, even though contestants would be better off with proportional rewards.

Suggested Citation

  • Roman M. Sheremeta & William A. Masters & Timothy N. Cason, 2012. "Winner-Take-All and Proportional-Prize Contests: Theory and Experimental Results," Working Papers 12-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:12-04
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Subhasish Chowdhury & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "Strategically equivalent contests," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 78(4), pages 587-601, April.
    2. Herbst, Luisa & Konrad, Kai A. & Morath, Florian, 2017. "Balance of power and the propensity of conflict," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 168-184.
    3. Curtis R. Price & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2015. "Endowment Origin, Demographic Effects, and Individual Preferences in Contests," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(3), pages 597-619, September.
    4. Philip Brookins & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2014. "An experimental study of bidding in contests of incomplete information," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(2), pages 245-261, June.
    5. Fallucchi, Francesco & Renner, Elke & Sefton, Martin, 2013. "Information feedback and contest structure in rent-seeking games," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 223-240.
    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. Chowdhury, Subhasish M. & Sheremeta, Roman M. & Turocy, Theodore L., 2014. "Overbidding and overspreading in rent-seeking experiments: Cost structure and prize allocation rules," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 224-238.
    8. Kimbrough, Erik O. & Sheremeta, Roman M. & Shields, Timothy W., 2014. "When parity promotes peace: Resolving conflict between asymmetric agents," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 96-108.
    9. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2014. "Behavioral Dimensions of Contests," Working Papers 14-14, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    10. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "A survey of experimental research on contests, all-pay auctions and tournaments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(4), pages 609-669, December.
    11. Hoffmann, Magnus & Kolmar, Martin, 2013. "Intention-based fairness preferences in two-player contests," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(2), pages 276-279.
    12. Grossmann, Martin, 2014. "Uncertain contest success function," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 134-148.
    13. Lacomba, Juan A. & Lagos, Francisco & Reuben, Ernesto & van Winden, Frans, 2014. "On the escalation and de-escalation of conflict," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 40-57.
    14. Boudreau, James W. & Shunda, Nicholas, 2015. "Tacit Collusion in Repeated Contests with Noise," MPRA Paper 65671, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Faravelli, Marco & Stanca, Luca, 2014. "Economic incentives and social preferences: Causal evidence of non-separability," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 273-289.
    16. Zeynep B. Irfanoglu & Shakun D. Mago & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2014. "The New Hampshire Effect: Behavior in Sequential and Simultaneous Election Contests," Working Papers 14-15, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    17. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2013. "Overbidding And Heterogeneous Behavior In Contest Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(3), pages 491-514, July.
    18. Irfanoglu, Zeynep & Mago, Shakun & Sheremeta, Roman, 2015. "New Hampshire Effect: Behavior in Sequential and Simultaneous Election Contests," MPRA Paper 67520, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Sheremeta, Roman, 2015. "Behavior in Group Contests: A Review of Experimental Research," MPRA Paper 67515, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Kolmar, Martin, 2013. "Group Conflicts. Where do we stand?," Economics Working Paper Series 1331, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    21. Sheremeta, Roman, 2014. "Behavior in Contests," MPRA Paper 57451, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    contests; rent-seeking; lotteries; incentives in experiments; risk aversion;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

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