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Deception and Incentives: How Dishonesty Undermines Effort Provision

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  • Ederer, Florian

    () (MIT)

  • Fehr, Ernst

    () (University of Zurich)

Abstract

In this paper we show that subtle forms of deceit undermine the effectiveness of incentives. We design an experiment in which the principal has an interest in underreporting the true performance difference between the agents in a dynamic tournament. According to the standard approach, rational agents should completely disregard the performance feedback of self-interested principals and choose their effort level as if they had not been given any information. However, despite substantial underreporting many principals seem to exhibit lying aversion which renders their feedback informative. Therefore, the agents respond to the feedback but discount it strongly by reducing their effort relative to fully truthful performance feedback. Moreover, previous experiences of being deceived exacerbate the problem and eventually reduce average effort even below the level that prevails in the absence of any feedback. Thus, both no feedback and truthful feedback are better for incentives than biased feedback.

Suggested Citation

  • Ederer, Florian & Fehr, Ernst, 2007. "Deception and Incentives: How Dishonesty Undermines Effort Provision," IZA Discussion Papers 3200, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3200
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ghazala Azmat & Nagore Iriberri, 2010. "The Provision of Relative Performance Feedback Information: An Experimental Analysis of Performance and Happiness," Working Papers 454, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    2. Eriksson, Tor & Poulsen, Anders & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2009. "Feedback and incentives: Experimental evidence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 679-688, December.
    3. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. 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.
    5. List, John A. & Rasul, Imran, 2011. "Field Experiments in Labor Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Azmat, Ghazala & Iriberri, Nagore, 2010. "The importance of relative performance feedback information: Evidence from a natural experiment using high school students," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 435-452, August.
    7. Glätzle-Rützler, Daniela & Lergetporer, Philipp, 2015. "Lying and age: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 12-25.
    8. Klein, Arnd Heinrich & Schmutzler, Armin, 2017. "Optimal effort incentives in dynamic tournaments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 199-224.
    9. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter, 2011. "Lab Labor: What Can Labor Economists Learn from the Lab?," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    10. Ludwig, Sandra & Lünser, Gabriele K., 2012. "Observing your competitor – The role of effort information in two-stage tournaments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 166-182.
    11. Marco Kleine & Sebastian Kube, 2015. "Communication and Trust in Principal-Team Relationships: Experimental Evidence," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2015_06, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    12. Bin R. Chen & Y. Stephen Chiu, 2013. "Interim Performance Evaluation in Contract Design," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123, pages 665-698, June.
    13. Jennifer Kunz & Stefan Linder, 2012. "Organizational Control and Work Effort -- Another Look at the Interplay of Rewards and Motivation," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 591-621, March.
    14. repec:eee:ecmode:v:72:y:2018:i:c:p:54-64 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Barr, Abigail & Michailidou, Georgia, 2017. "Complicity without connection or communication," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 1-10.
    16. Belot, Michèle & Bhaskar, V. & van de Ven, Jeroen, 2010. "Promises and cooperation: Evidence from a TV game show," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 396-405, March.
    17. repec:eee:soceco:v:74:y:2018:i:c:p:1-16 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    deception; dishonesty; communication; cheap talk; dynamic tournaments;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation

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