Exploitation Aversion: When Financial Incentives Fail to Motivate Agents
Empirical studies of the principal-agent relationship find that extrinsic incentives work in many instances, linking rewards to performance increases effort, but that they can also backfire, reducing effort. Intrinsic motivation, the internal drive to work to master a skill or to improve one's self image, is thought to be the key to whether incentives work or not. If the incentives crowd-out intrinsic motivation, and the effect is large enough, the net motivational effect on effort will be negative. We posit that an aversion to being exploited, i.e. being used instrumentally for the benefit of another, is one facet of intrinsic motivation, triggered by the combination of high-powered incentives and egoistic principal intent, that can cause incentives to fail. Using an experiment that provides the material circumstances necessary for exploitation to occur, we find that agent compliance is significantly lower for exploitative principals who use high-powered incentives and have a financial interest to do so, compared to neutral principals who use the same contracts but do not benefit from them. To corroborate our interpretation of the results we show that a surveyed "exploitation aversion" scale moderates this effect. Exploitation averse participants are less likely to comply with the incentives than exploitation tolerant participants when the principal signals an exploitative intent, but they are no less likely to comply with the same incentives when the principal is neutral. Our results have implications for the design and implementation of incentive structures within organizations.
|Date of creation:||Jul 2013|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page: http://www.iza.org
|Order Information:|| Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Bartling, Björn & Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2013.
"Use and abuse of authority: A behavioral foundation of the employment relation,"
Munich Reprints in Economics
20126, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
- Bartling, Björn & Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2012. "Use and Abuse of Authority: A Behavioral Foundation of the Employment Relation," IZA Discussion Papers 7029, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Björn Bartling & Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2012. "Use and abuse of authority: A behavioral foundation of the employment relation," ECON - Working Papers 098, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
- Björn Bartling & Ernst Fehr & Klaus Schmidt, 2013. "Use and Abuse of Authority - A Behavioral Foundation of the Employment Relation," CESifo Working Paper Series 4068, CESifo Group Munich.
- Bartling, Björn & Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2012. "Use and Abuse of Authority: A Behavioral Foundation of the Employment Relation," CEPR Discussion Papers 9231, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Mellström, Carl & Johannesson, Magnus, 2005.
"Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?,"
Working Papers in Economics
180, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 08 Feb 2008.
- Carl Mellström & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(4), pages 845-863, 06.
- Bengt Holmstrom, 1982.
"Moral Hazard in Teams,"
Bell Journal of Economics,
The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
- Anderhub, Vital & Gächter, Simon & Königstein, Manfred, 1999.
"Efficient contracting and fair play in a simple principal-agent experiment,"
SFB 373 Discussion Papers
1999,82, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
- Vital Anderhub & Simon GÃ¤chter & Manfred KÃ¶nigstein, 2002. "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-27, June.
- Vital Anderhub & Simon Gaechter & Manfred Koenigstein, . "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 018, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
- Samuel Bowles & Sandra Polania-Reyes, 2012.
"Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?,"
Journal of Economic Literature,
American Economic Association, vol. 50(2), pages 368-425, June.
- S. Bowles & S. Polania-Reyes., 2013. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
- S. Bowles & S. Polania-Reyes., 2013. "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: Substitutes or Complements?," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
- Jeffrey Carpenter & Caitlin Knowles Myers, 2010.
"Why Volunteer? Evidence on the Role of Altruism, Image, and Incentives,"
Middlebury College Working Paper Series
1023, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
- Carpenter, Jeffrey & Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2010. "Why volunteer? Evidence on the role of altruism, image, and incentives," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 911-920, December.
- Bruce Shearer, 2004. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages and Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 513-534.
- Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7499. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.