NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

What Motivates Effort? Evidence and Expert Forecasts

Stefano DellaVigna, Devin Pope

NBER Working Paper No. 22193
Issued in April 2016
NBER Program(s):LS, PE, PR

How much do different monetary and non-monetary motivators induce costly effort? Does the effectiveness line up with the expectations of researchers? We present the results of a large-scale real-effort experiment with 18 treatment arms. We compare the effect of three motivators: (i) standard incentives; (ii) behavioral factors like present-bias, reference dependence, and social preferences; and (iii) non-monetary inducements from psychology. In addition, we elicit forecasts by behavioral experts regarding the effectiveness of the treatments, allowing us to compare results to expectations. We find that (i) monetary incentives work largely as expected, including a very low piece rate treatment which does not crowd out incentives; (ii) the evidence is partly consistent with standard behavioral models, including warm glow, though we do not find evidence of probability weighting; (iii) the psychological motivators are effective, but less so than incentives. We then compare the results to forecasts by 208 experts. On average, the experts anticipate several key features, like the effectiveness of psychological motivators. A sizeable share of experts, however, expects crowd-out, probability weighting, and pure altruism, counterfactually. This heterogeneity does not reflect field of training, as behavioral economists, standard economists, and psychologists make similar forecasts. Using a simple model, we back out key parameters for social preferences, time preferences, and reference dependence, comparing expert beliefs and experimental results.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22193

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Flory, Leibbrandt, and List w22342 The Effects of Wage Contracts on Workplace Misbehaviors: Evidence from a Call Center Natural Field Experiment
Banerjee, Chassang, and Snowberg w22167 Decision Theoretic Approaches to Experiment Design and External Validity
Gorton w22210 The History and Economics of Safe Assets
Novy-Marx w20591 Understanding Defensive Equity
Courtemanche, Pinkston, Ruhm, and Wehby w20892 Can Changing Economic Factors Explain the Rise in Obesity?
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us