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Peer Information and Risk-taking under Competitive and Non-competitive Pay Schemes

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  • Philip Brookins
  • Jennifer Brown
  • Dmitry Ryvkin

Abstract

Incentive schemes that reward participants based on their relative performance are often thought to be particularly risk-inducing. Using a novel, real-effort task experiment in the laboratory, we find that the relationship between incentives and risk-taking is more nuanced and depends critically on the availability of information about peers’ strategies and outcomes. Indeed, we find that when no peer information is available, relative rewards schemes are associated with significantly less risk-taking than non-competitive rewards. In contrast, when decision-makers receive information about their peers’ actions and/or outcomes, relative incentive schemes are associated with more risk-taking than non-competitive schemes. The nature of the feedback—whether subjects receive information about peers’ strategies, outcomes, or both—also affects risk-taking. We find no evidence that competitors imitate their peers when they face only feedback about other subjects’ risk-taking strategies. However, decision-makers take more risk when they see the gaps between their performance score and their peers’ scores grow. Combined feedback about peers’ strategies and performance—from which subjects may assess the overall relationship between risk-taking and success—is associated with more risk-taking when rewards are based on relative performance; we find no similar effect for non-competitive rewards.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip Brookins & Jennifer Brown & Dmitry Ryvkin, 2016. "Peer Information and Risk-taking under Competitive and Non-competitive Pay Schemes," NBER Working Papers 22486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22486
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    2. Sonnabend, Hendrik & Lackner, Mario, 2020. "Gender differences in overconfidence and decision making in high-stakes competitions: evidence from freediving contests," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224595, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Usvitskiy, Alexander, 2022. "Strategic risk-taking in dynamic contests," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 198(C), pages 511-534.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • G17 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Financial Forecasting and Simulation
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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