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How uncertainty and ambiguity in tournaments affect gender differences in competitive behavior

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  • Loukas Balafoutas

    (University of Innsbruck)

  • Matthias Sutter

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

Abstract

Tournament incentives prevail in labor markets. Yet, the number of tournament winners is often unclear to competitors. While it is hard to measure how this uncertainty affects work performance and willingness to compete in the field, it can be studied in a controlled lab experiment. We present a novel experiment where subjects can compete against each other, but the number of winners is either uncertain (but with known probabilities) or ambiguous (with unknown probabilities for different numbers of winners). We compare these two conditions to a control treatment with a known number of winners. We find that ambiguity induces a significant increase in the performance of men who choose to compete, while we observe no change for women. Men also increase their willingness to enter competition in the presence of ambiguity. Overall, both effects contribute to men winning the tournament significantly more often than women under uncertainty and ambiguity. These findings suggest that management should make tournament conditions transparent and information available in order to prevent gender disparities from increasing under uncertainty and ambiguity.

Suggested Citation

  • Loukas Balafoutas & Matthias Sutter, 2019. "How uncertainty and ambiguity in tournaments affect gender differences in competitive behavior," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2019_09, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2019_09
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    Cited by:

    1. Helena Fornwagner & Monika Pompeo & Nina Serdarevic, 2020. "Him or her? Choosing competition on behalf of someone else," Discussion Papers 2020-13, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    2. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Patricia Esteve-González & Anwesha Mukherjee, 2020. "Heterogeneity, Leveling the Playing Field, and Affirmative Action in Contests," Economics Series Working Papers 915, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gender; competition; uncertainty; ambiguity; experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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