London School of Economics EOPP: Economic Organisation and Public Policy Programme LSE
EOPP: Economic Organisation and Public Policy Programme

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)
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Keywords: awards, social comparison, optimal expectations, incentives

JEL Classification: D84; D83; J33; M52; O15

Is hard copy/paper copy available? YES - Paper Copy Still In Print.
This Paper is published under the following series: Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers
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Abstract:

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.