How Ego-threats Facilitate Contracts Based on Subjective Evaluations
We show that individuals’ desire to protect their self-esteem against ego-threatening feedback can mitigate moral hazard in environments with purely subjective performance evaluations. In line with evidence from social psychology we assume that agents’ react aggressively to evaluations by the principal which do not coincide with their own positive self-perceptions and thereby generate costs of conflict for the principal. We identify conditions for a positive welfare effect of increasing costs of conflict or increasing sensitivity to ego-threats, and a negative welfare effect of a more informative information technology. As a consequence, principals may choose imperfect information technologies in equilibrium even if the signal quality is costless.
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