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Mixed Tournaments, Common Shocks, and Disincentives: An Experimental Study


  • Wu, Steven
  • Roe, Brian
  • Sporleder, Thomas


Experimental economics is used to investigate two important hypotheses proposed in the economics literature on tournaments. Specifically, we test for a hypothesized “disincentives effect” which can occur in tournaments with mixed ability agents. We also test the well known hypothesis that, when common shocks are an important source of risk, tournaments can filter out this common shock and reduce earnings risk to workers. We find that disincentive effects arose in our tournament experiments, although these effects are not as strong as we predicted in our theoretical model and simulations. We also find that tournaments can be very effective at reducing earnings variation when common shocks are important. Taken together, these results suggest that the benefits of risk reduction from eliminating common shocks might outweigh the disincentive effects arising from mixed tournaments. We also find that the difference in average earnings between low and high ability agents is greater under tournaments than under absolute performance contracts.

Suggested Citation

  • Wu, Steven & Roe, Brian & Sporleder, Thomas, 2006. "Mixed Tournaments, Common Shocks, and Disincentives: An Experimental Study," MPRA Paper 21, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-864, October.
    2. Andrew Schotter & Keith Weigelt, 1992. "Asymmetric Tournaments, Equal Opportunity Laws, and Affirmative Action: Some Experimental Results," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 511-539.
    3. Hans K. Hvide, 2002. "Tournament Rewards and Risk Taking," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 877-898, October.
    4. Charness, Gary & Kuhn, Peter J., 2004. "Do Co-Workers’ Wages Matter? Theory and Evidence on Wage Secrecy, Wage Compression and Effort," IZA Discussion Papers 1417, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. van Dijk, Frans & Sonnemans, Joep & van Winden, Frans, 2001. "Incentive systems in a real effort experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 187-214, February.
    6. Kennedy, Peter W, 1995. "Performance Pay, Productivity and Morale," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 71(214), pages 240-247, September.
    7. Chan, William, 1996. "External Recruitment versus Internal Promotion," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(4), pages 555-570, October.
    8. Nalbantian, Haig R & Schotter, Andrew, 1997. "Productivity under Group Incentives: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 314-341, June.
    9. Green, Jerry R & Stokey, Nancy L, 1983. "A Comparison of Tournaments and Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 349-364, June.
    10. Knoeber, Charles R & Thurman, Walter N, 1994. "Testing the Theory of Tournaments: An Empirical Analysis of Broiler Production," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(2), pages 155-179, April.
    11. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-580, June.
    12. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    13. Bengt Holmstrom, 1979. "Moral Hazard and Observability," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 74-91, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Emmanuel Dechenaux & Dan Kovenock & Roman Sheremeta, 2015. "A survey of experimental research on contests, all-pay auctions and tournaments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(4), pages 609-669, December.
    2. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2016. "The pros and cons of workplace tournaments," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 302-302, October.
    3. Agranov, Marina & Tergiman, Chloe, 2013. "Incentives and compensation schemes: An experimental study," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 238-247.

    More about this item


    mixed tournaments; incentives; relative performance contracts; experimental economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

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