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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

  • Götte, Lorenz

    ()

    (University of Bonn)

  • Huffman, David B.

    ()

    (University of Oxford)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1890.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Vohs, K.D, Baumeister, R.F; Loewenstein, G. (eds.): Do emotions help or hurt decision making? A Hedgefoxian Perspective, New York, Sage, 2007
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1890
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  1. Ernst Fehr & Lorenz Götte, 2005. "Do Workers Work More if Wages are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 125, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ernst Fehr & David Huffman & Lorenz Goette, 2004. "Loss Aversion And Labor Supply," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0409003, EconWPA.
  6. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Camerer, Colin, et al, 1997. "Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers: One Day at a Time," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 407-41, May.
  8. Neilson, William S, 2002. " Comparative Risk Sensitivity with Reference-Dependent Preferences," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 131-42, March.
  9. Koszegi, Botond & Rabin, Matthew, 2004. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt0w82b6nm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  10. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. 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.
  13. Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-93, Fall.
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