What motivates effort?

How much do different monetary and non-monetary motivators induce costly effort? Does the effectiveness line up with the expectations of researchers?

  • Tue 17 Oct 17

    16:00 - 17:30

  • Colchester Campus

    Economics Common Room 5B.307

  • Event speaker

    Professor Devin Pope, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Economics, Department of

  • Contact details

We present the results of a large-scale real-effort experiment with 18 treatment arms.

We compare the effect of three motivators: 

  1. standard incentives
  2. behavioural factors like present bias, reference dependence, and social preferences
  3. non-monetary inducements from psychology

In addition, we elicit forecasts by behavioural experts regarding the effectiveness of the treatments, allowing us to compare results to expectations.


  1. Monetary incentives work largely as expected, including a very low piece rate treatment which does not crowd out incentives
  2. The evidence is partly consistent with standard behavioural models, including warm glow, though we do not find evidence of probability weighting
  3. 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 behavioural 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.

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