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Leveraging social comparisons: the role of peer assignment policies


Senn, Julien; Schmitz, Jan; Zehnder, Christian (2023). Leveraging social comparisons: the role of peer assignment policies. Working paper series / Department of Economics 427, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Using a large-scale real effort experiment, we explore whether and how different peer assignment mechanisms affect worker performance and stress. Letting individuals choose whom to compare to increases productivity to the same extent as a targeted exogenous matching policy designed to maximize motivational spillovers. These effects are significantly larger than those obtained through random assignment and their magnitude is comparable to the impact of monetary incentives that increase pay by about 10 percent. A downside of targeted peer assignment is that, unlike endogenous peer selection, it leads to a large increase in stress. Using a combination of choice data, text analysis and simulations, we show that the key advantage of letting workers choose whom to compare to is that it allows those workers who want to be motivated to compare to a motivating peer while also permitting those for whom social comparisons have little benefits or are too stressful to avoid them. Finally, we provide evidence that social comparisons yield stronger motivational effects than comparable non-social goals.

Abstract

Using a large-scale real effort experiment, we explore whether and how different peer assignment mechanisms affect worker performance and stress. Letting individuals choose whom to compare to increases productivity to the same extent as a targeted exogenous matching policy designed to maximize motivational spillovers. These effects are significantly larger than those obtained through random assignment and their magnitude is comparable to the impact of monetary incentives that increase pay by about 10 percent. A downside of targeted peer assignment is that, unlike endogenous peer selection, it leads to a large increase in stress. Using a combination of choice data, text analysis and simulations, we show that the key advantage of letting workers choose whom to compare to is that it allows those workers who want to be motivated to compare to a motivating peer while also permitting those for whom social comparisons have little benefits or are too stressful to avoid them. Finally, we provide evidence that social comparisons yield stronger motivational effects than comparable non-social goals.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:C93, J24, M54
Uncontrolled Keywords:Social comparisons, productivity, stress, incentives, real effort
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:August 2023
Deposited On:17 Feb 2023 12:43
Last Modified:06 Mar 2024 14:39
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:89
ISSN:1664-7041
Additional Information:Revised version
OA Status:Green
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:23381
  • Content: Updated Version
  • Description: Revised version August 2023