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Motivation Crowding Theory: A Survey Of Empirical Evidence, Revised Version


  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Reto Jegen


The Motivation Crowding Effect suggests that external intervention via monetary incentives punishments may undermine, and under different identifiable conditions strengthen, intrinsic motivation. As of today, the theoretical possibility of motivation crowding has been the main subject of discussion among economists. This study demonstrates that the effect is also of empirical relevance. There exist a large number of studies, offering empirical evidence in support of the existence of crowding-out crowding-in exists. The study is based on circumstantial evidence, laboratory studies by both psychologists and economists, as well as field research by econometric studies. The pieces of evidence presented refer to a wide variety of areas of the economy and society and have been collected for many different countries and periods of time. Crowding effects thus are an empirically relevant phenomenon, which can, in specific cases, even dominate the traditional relative price effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno S. Frey & Reto Jegen, "undated". "Motivation Crowding Theory: A Survey Of Empirical Evidence, Revised Version," IEW - Working Papers 049, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:049

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gneezy, Uri & Rustichini, Aldo, 2000. "A Fine is a Price," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Robert Gibbons, 1998. "Incentives in Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 115-132, Fall.
    4. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence And Social Interactions," Working Papers 151, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics.
    5. Freeman, Richard B, 1997. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 140-166, January.
    6. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-319, June.
    7. Bewley, Truman F, 1995. "A Depressed Labor Market as Explained by Participants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 250-254, May.
    8. George A. Akerlof, 1982. "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(4), pages 543-569.
    9. Fama, Eugene F & Jensen, Michael C, 1983. "Separation of Ownership and Control," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 301-325, June.
    10. Frey, Bruno S, 1997. "A Constitution for Knaves Crowds Out Civic Virtues," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1043-1053, July.
    11. Chang, Juin-jen & Lai, Ching-chong, 1999. "Carrots or sticks? A social custom viewpoint on worker effort," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 297-310, June.
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    1. Efficiency wages for MPs?
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-04-10 19:01:23


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    Cited by:

    1. Schenk-Hoppe, Klaus Reiner & Schmalfu[ss], Bjorn, 2001. "Random fixed points in a stochastic Solow growth model," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 19-30, September.

    More about this item


    Crowding effect; intrinsic motivation; principal-agent theory; economic psychology; experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure


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