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The Impact of Team Incentives on Performance in Graduate School: Evidence from Two Pilot RCTs

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  • John List
  • Rohen Shah

Abstract

In organizations, teams are ubiquitous. "Weakest Link" and "Best Shot" are incentive schemes that tie a group member's compensation to the output of their group's least and most productive member, respectively. In this paper, we test the impact of these incentive schemes by conducting two pilot RCTs (one in-person, one online), which included more than 250 graduate students in a graduate math class. Students were placed in study groups of three or four students, and then groups were randomized to either control, Weakest Link, or Best Shot incentives. We find evidence that such incentive approaches can affect test scores, both in-person and online.

Suggested Citation

  • John List & Rohen Shah, 2022. "The Impact of Team Incentives on Performance in Graduate School: Evidence from Two Pilot RCTs," Framed Field Experiments 00760, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00760
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    1. Arno Riedl & Ingrid M. T. Rohde & Martin Strobel, 2016. "Efficient Coordination in Weakest-Link Games," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(2), pages 737-767.
    2. Tanjim Hossain & John A. List, 2012. "The Behavioralist Visits the Factory: Increasing Productivity Using Simple Framing Manipulations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(12), pages 2151-2167, December.
    3. Edward P. Lazear & Kathryn L. Shaw, 2007. "Personnel Economics: The Economist's View of Human Resources," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
    4. Uri Gneezy & John A. List & Jeffrey A. Livingston & Xiangdong Qin & Sally Sadoff & Yang Xu, 2019. "Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 291-308, December.
    5. Orlov, George & McKee, Douglas & Berry, James & Boyle, Austin & DiCiccio, Thomas & Ransom, Tyler & Rees-Jones, Alex & Stoye, Jörg, 2021. "Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: It is not who you teach, but how you teach," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 202(C).
    6. Eric P. Bettinger & Lindsay Fox & Susanna Loeb & Eric S. Taylor, 2017. "Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(9), pages 2855-2875, September.
    7. Matthew A. Kraft & John A. List & Jeffrey A. Livingston & Sally Sadoff, 2022. "Online Tutoring by College Volunteers: Experimental Evidence from a Pilot Program," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 112, pages 614-618, May.
    8. Eric Bettinger & Jing Liu & Susanna Loeb, 2016. "Connections Matter: How Interactive Peers Affect Students in Online College Courses," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 35(4), pages 932-954, September.
    9. Harrison, Glenn W & Hirshleifer, Jack, 1989. "An Experimental Evaluation of Weakest Link/Best Shot Models of Public Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 201-225, February.
    10. Ben Weidmann & David J. Deming, 2021. "Team Players: How Social Skills Improve Team Performance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 89(6), pages 2637-2657, November.
    11. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Iryna Topolyan, 2016. "Best-shot versus weakest-link in political lobbying: an application of group all-pay auction," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 47(4), pages 959-971, December.
    12. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List & Sally Sadoff, 2016. "The Effect of Performance-Based Incentives on Educational Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 22107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. List, John A. & Livingston, Jeffrey A. & Neckermann, Susanne, 2018. "Do financial incentives crowd out intrinsic motivation to perform on standardized tests?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 125-136.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D79 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Other
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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