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Rank expectations, feedback and social hierarchies

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  • Kuhnen, Camelia M.
  • Tymula, Agnieszka

Abstract

We develop and test experimentally a theoretical model of the role of self-esteem, generated by private feedback regarding relative performance, on the behavior of agents working on an effort provision task for a flat wage. Agents work harder and expect to rank better when they are told they may learn their ranking, relative to cases when they are told feedback will not be provided. Individuals who learn that they have ranked better than expected decrease their output but expect an even better rank in the future, while those who were told they ranked worse than expected increase their output and at the same time lower their rank expectations going forward. These effects are stronger in earlier rounds of the task, while subjects learn how they compare to their peers. This rank hierarchy is established early on, and remains relatively stable afterwards. Private relative rank information helps create a ratcheting effect in the group's average output, which is mainly due to the fight for dominance at the top of the hierarchy. Hence, in environments where monetary incentives are weak, moral hazard may be mitigated by providing feedback to agents regarding their relative performance, and by optimally choosing the reference peer group.

Suggested Citation

  • Kuhnen, Camelia M. & Tymula, Agnieszka, 2008. "Rank expectations, feedback and social hierarchies," MPRA Paper 13428, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Jan 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:13428
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    3. Stark, Oded, 2019. "Behavior in reverse: reasons for return migration," Behavioural Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 104-126, May.
    4. Azmat, Ghazala & Iriberri, Nagore, 2010. "The importance of relative performance feedback information: Evidence from a natural experiment using high school students," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 435-452, August.
    5. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González & Stephen Rassenti, 2011. "Real Effort, Real Leisure and Real-time Supervision: Incentives and Peer Pressure in Virtual Organizations," Working Papers 11-05, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    6. Oded Stark & Jan Fałkowski, 2019. "On structural change, the social stress of a farming population, and the political economy of farm support," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 27(1), pages 201-222, January.
    7. Oded Stark, 2017. "Migration when Social Preferences are Ordinal: Steady-state Population Distribution and Social Welfare," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 84(336), pages 647-666, October.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    rankings; incentives; feedback; moral hazard; intrinsic motivation; ego utility; self-esteem;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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