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Affect as a Source of Motivation in the Workplace: A New Model of Labor Supply, and New Field Evidence on Income Targeting and the Goal Gradient

Author

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  • Götte, Lorenz

    () (University of Bonn)

  • Huffman, David B.

    () (University of Pittsburgh)

Abstract

In this chapter we propose a new, dual-process model of labor supply, which incorporates both cognitive and affective aspects of decision-making. Consistent with evidence from neuroscience, the worker may experience conflicting cognitive and affective motivations during the workday. In particular, the affective system values effort more highly as long the worker's performance is below a personal goal, or income target, and becomes increasingly aroused as the goal approaches. As a result, affect can distort effort decisions relative to a fully cognitive benchmark, in a way that is consistent with evidence on loss aversion, and with the so-called goal-gradient effect, a tendency for animals and humans to increase effort as a goal approaches. In contrast to a standard model of labor supply, our model can predict a goal gradient, and predicts that workers may actually lower total daily effort in response to a temporary increase in the wage. Also, within-day windfall gains may have an impact on a worker’s effort profile over the workday. The second part of the chapter tests this latter prediction using data from two bicycle messenger firms. At both firms, a windfall gain in the morning has the predicted impact. A lucky messenger works harder than other messengers over the first part of the afternoon, and the difference is increasing, consistent with a goal gradient. Later in the afternoon, a lucky messenger works significantly less hard than the others, consistent with having surpassed a personal earnings goal earlier in the day and having less affective motivation.

Suggested Citation

  • Götte, Lorenz & Huffman, David B., 2005. "Affect as a Source of Motivation in the Workplace: A New Model of Labor Supply, and New Field Evidence on Income Targeting and the Goal Gradient," IZA Discussion Papers 1890, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1890
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Colin Camerer & Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein & Richard Thaler, 1997. "Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers: One Day at a Time," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 407-441.
    2. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
    3. Lorenz Goette & David Huffman & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Loss Aversion and Labor Supply," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 216-228, 04/05.
    4. Botond Kőszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2006. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1133-1165.
    5. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2007. "Do Workers Work More if Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 298-317, March.
    6. Neilson, William S, 2002. "Comparative Risk Sensitivity with Reference-Dependent Preferences," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 131-142, March.
    7. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
    8. Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-193, Fall.
    9. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    10. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    11. M. Keith Chen & Venkat Lakshminarayanan & Laurie Santos, 2005. "The Evolution of Our Preferences: Evidence from Capuchin-Monkey Trading Behavior," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1524, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    12. Henry S. Farber, 2005. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 46-82, February.
    13. Benhabib, Jess & Bisin, Alberto, 2005. "Modeling internal commitment mechanisms and self-control: A neuroeconomics approach to consumption-saving decisions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 460-492, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Goette, 2007. "Do Workers Work More if Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 298-317, March.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    emotion; labor supply; loss aversion; income targeting; affect; goal gradient;

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other

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