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Abstract for:

Awards Unbundled: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

Nava Ashraf,  Oriana Bandiera,  Scott Lee,  July 2013
Paper No' EOPP 046: Full paper (pdf)
Tags: awards; social comparison; optimal expectations; incentives


Organizations often use awards to incentivize performance. We design a field experiment to unbundle the mechanisms through which awards may affect behavior: by facilitating social comparison and by conferring recognition and visibility. In a nationwide health worker training program in Zambia, employer recognition and social visibility increase performance while social comparison reduces it, especially for low-ability trainees. These effects appear when treatments are announced and persist through training. The findings are consistent with a model of optimal expectations in which low-ability individuals exert low effort in order to avoid information about their relative ability.