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Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment

In this paper we experimentally test whether competing for a desired reward does not only affect individuals’ performance, but also their tendency to cheat. Recent doping scandals in sports as well as forgery and plagiarism scandals in academia have been partially explained by „competitive pressures“, which suggests a link between competition and cheating. In our experiment subjects conduct a task where they have the possibility to make use of illegitimate tools to better their results. We find that women react much stronger to competitive pressure by increasing their cheating activity while there is no overall sex difference in cheating. However, the effect of competition on women’s cheating behavior is entirely due to the fact that women, on average, are doing worse with respect to the assigned task. Indeed we find that it is the ability of an individual to conduct a particular task and not sex that crucially affects the reaction to competition. Poor performers significantly increase their cheating behavior under competition which may be a face-saving strategy or an attempt to retain a chance of winning.

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File URL: http://www.econ.jku.at/papers/2008/wp0801.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series Economics working papers with number 2008-01.

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Date of creation: Jan 2008
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Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2008_01
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Web page: http://www.econ.jku.at/

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  1. Uri Gneezy & Aldo Rustichini, 2004. "Gender and Competition at a Young Age," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 377-381, May.
  2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Brandts Jordi & Riedl Arno & Winden Frans van, 2005. "Competition and Well-Being," Research Memorandum 033, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  4. Joseph Price, 2008. "Gender Differences in the Response to Competition," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 61(3), pages 320-333, April.
  5. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2008. "How many winners are good to have?: On tournaments with sabotage," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 682-702, March.
  6. Günther, Christina & Ekinci, Neslihan Arslan & Schwieren, Christiane & Strobel, Martin, 2010. "Women can't jump?--An experiment on competitive attitudes and stereotype threat," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 395-401, September.
  7. Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Matthews, Peter Hans & Schirm, John, 2007. "Tournaments and Office Politics: Evidence from a Real Effort Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2972, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior - Experimental Evidence," Post-Print halshs-00180022, HAL.
  9. Cabrales, Antonio & Charness, Gary & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2006. "Competition, Hidden Information and Efficiency: An Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2296, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Daniel S. Nagin & James B. Rebitzer & Seth Sanders & Lowell J. Taylor, 2002. "Monitoring, Motivation, and Management: The Determinants of Opportunistic Behavior in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 850-873, September.
  11. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Anders Poulsen & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2005. "Male and Female Competitive Behavior: Experimental," Post-Print halshs-00175039, HAL.
  12. Martin, Ben R., 2007. "Keeping plagiarism at bay--A salutary tale," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 905-911, September.
  13. Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Does Competition Destroy Ethical Behavior?," NBER Working Papers 10269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," NBER Working Papers 11474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Antonovics, Kate & Arcidiacono, Peter & Walsh, Randall, 2003. "Competing Against the Opposite Sex," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt0kx2f7xq, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  16. List, John A, et al, 2001. "Academic Economists Behaving Badly? A Survey on Three Areas of Unethical Behavior," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(1), pages 162-70, January.
  17. Harbring, Christine & Irlenbusch, Bernd, 2005. "How Many Winners Are Good to Have? On Tournaments with Sabotage," IZA Discussion Papers 1777, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. Gary A. Hoover, 2004. "Whose Line Is It? Plagiarism in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 487-493, June.
  19. Benno Torgler & Neven T. Valev, 2006. "Women and Illegal Activities: Gender Differences and Women?s Willingness to Comply over Time," CREMA Working Paper Series 2006-15, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  20. Joe Kerkvliet & Charles L. Sigmund, 1999. "Can We Control Cheating in the Classroom?," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(4), pages 331-343, December.
  21. Ian Preston, 2003. "Cheating in Contests," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(4), pages 612-624, Winter.
  22. Vandegrift, Donald & Yavas, Abdullah, 2009. "Men, women, and competition: An experimental test of behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 554-570, October.
  23. Christine Harbring & Bernd Irlenbusch & Matthias Kräkel & Reinhard Selten, 2004. "Sabotage in Asymmetric Contests – An Experimental Analysis," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse12_2004, University of Bonn, Germany.
  24. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
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