Nava Ashraf, Oriana Bandiera and Scott Lee
Published 14 August 2013
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.