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The evolution of cooperative norms: Evidence from a natural field experiment

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  • Orana Bandiera
  • Iwan Barankay
  • Imran Rasul

Abstract

We document the establishment and evolution of a cooperative norm among workers using evidence from a natural field experiment on a leading UK farm. Workers are paid according to a relative incentive scheme under which increasing individual effort raises a worker's own pay but imposes a negative externality on the pay of all co-workers, thus creating a rationale for cooperation. As a counterfactual, we analyze worker behavior when workers are paid piece rates and thus have no incentive to cooperate. We find that workers cooperate more as their exposure to the relative incentive scheme increases. We also find that individual and group exposure are substitutes, namely workers who work alongside colleagues with higher exposure cooperate more. Shocks to the workforce in the form of new worker arrivals disrupt cooperation in the short term but are then quickly integrated into the norm. Individual exposure, group exposure, and the arrival of new workers have no effect on productivity when workers and paid piece rates and there is no incentive to cooperate.

Suggested Citation

  • Orana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2006. "The evolution of cooperative norms: Evidence from a natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00210, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00210
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    Cited by:

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    2. Dolan, P. & Hallsworth, M. & Halpern, D. & King, D. & Metcalfe, R. & Vlaev, I., 2012. "Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 264-277.
    3. Donna Harris & Benedikt Herrmann & Andreas Kontoleon, 2009. "Two's Company, Three's a Group: The impact of group identity and group size on in-group favouritism," Environmental Economy and Policy Research Working Papers 41.2009, University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economics, revised 2009.
    4. Jim Engle-Warnick & Andreas Leibbrandt, 2006. "Who Gets The Last Word? An Experimental Study Of The Effect Of A Peer Review Process On The Expression Of Social Norms," Departmental Working Papers 2006-11, McGill University, Department of Economics.
    5. Donna Harris & Benedikt Herrmann & Andreas Kontoleon, 2009. "Two's Company, Three's a Group: The impact of group identity and group size on in-group favouritism," Environmental Economy and Policy Research Working Papers 41.2009, University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economics, revised 2009.
    6. List John A., 2007. "Field Experiments: A Bridge between Lab and Naturally Occurring Data," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-47, April.
    7. 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.
    8. Gillingham, Kenneth & Tsvetanov, Tsvetan, 2018. "Nudging energy efficiency audits: Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 303-316.
    9. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Monaco, Kristen & Porter, Kay & Rustichini, Aldo, 2007. "Using Behavioral Economic Experiments at a Large Motor Carrier: The Context and Design of the Truckers and Turnover Project," IZA Discussion Papers 2789, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Levitt, Steven D. & List, John A., 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-18, January.
    11. Damiani, Mirella & Ricci, Andrea, 2013. "Entrepreneurs’ education and different variable pay schemes in Italian firms," MPRA Paper 46163, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Reyniers, Diane, 2018. "Peers and productivity: Evidence from an experimental factory," MPRA Paper 91215, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Donna Harris & Benedikt Herrmann & Andreas Kontoleon, 2012. "When to Favour Your Own group? The Threats of Costly Punishments and In-group Favouritism," Economics Series Working Papers 628, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    14. Mirella Damiani & Andrea Ricci, 2012. "The role of education of entrepreneurs on adoption of different contingent pay schemes: evidence from Italian firms," Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica 116/2013, Università di Perugia, Dipartimento Economia.
    15. Stephen V. Burks & Jeffrey Carpenter & Lorenz Goette & Kristen Monaco & Aldo Rustichini & Kay Porter, 2007. "Using Behavioral Economic Field Experiments at a Large Motor Carrier: The Context and Design of the Truckers and Turnover Project," NBER Working Papers 12976, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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