Let Them Race: the role of beliefs and fairness views on incentivizing others

Last registered on May 12, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Let Them Race: the role of beliefs and fairness views on incentivizing others
Initial registration date
March 08, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
March 13, 2023, 3:07 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
May 12, 2023, 10:10 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


Primary Investigator

Norwegian School of Economics

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial is based on or builds upon one or more prior RCTs.
Many firms offer extra bonus to motivate their workers. Some bonus schemes reward the workers by their absolute performance or share of contribution, while others reward the workers outperforming their peers. The structure of bonus schemes affects the incentives the workers face and thus their performance, however, it will also determine the distribution of their incomes, which may or may not be perceived as fair. It is intuitive to think that a bonus scheme creating a larger income gap between the high- and low-performers may bring greater overall output, but at the same time unfair to the low-performers if the output gap is sufficiently small. A rank-order tournament, for example, has been shown to outperform other types of bonus schemes in eliciting the workers’ performance (Lazear & Rosen, 1981). On the other hand, it may be seen as unfair since its win-or-lose structure generates unequal incomes unproportional to the workers’ input (Cappelen, Falch & Tungodden, 2020;Cappelen, Sorensen & Tungodden, 2007; Konow, 2000).

Managers sometimes need to make decisions in which they have to trade off expected output growth and fairness. Their decisions could differ since they might hold different beliefs about the incentive effect and different fairness views. Moreover, the relative weight they put on efficiency and fairness could also depend on how they themselves are paid. How do people perceive tournament incentives? How do people decide whether or not to incentivize others with tournament bonus?

In this project, I plan to conduct an online experiment to collect data on subjects' beliefs about the output difference under a flat vs. a tournament bonus incentive, their views on the fairness difference of these two bonus schemes, and their choices of bonus schemes for two other workers. In addition, I also plan to investigate whether subjects' perceptions and decisions vary with different gender composition of the worker group. This pre-analysis plan presents the data sources, the experimental design, and the empirical strategy of the project.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Wang, Weijia. 2023. "Let Them Race: the role of beliefs and fairness views on incentivizing others." AEA RCT Registry. May 12. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.11063-2.0
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Beliefs about output difference under different bonus schemes - without gender consideration, with female workers, with male workers
Fairness comparisons of different bonus schemes - without gender consideration, with female workers, with male workers
Choice of bonus scheme for two others - without gender consideration, for two female workers, for two male workers, for one female worker and one male worker
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment consists of three stages.

In stage 1, the managers are informed that some workers were recruited in the past to work on a real-effort task and that I used two different bonus schemes to motivate these workers. The managers are asked to guess how the different bonus schemes affected the workers’ output.
I provide half of the managers with the average output of the workers paid by an equal bonus scheme together with a histogram showing their output distribution. The other half of the managers receive the information of the workers paid by a tournament bonus scheme. The managers are asked to guess the average output of the workers paid by the bonus scheme they do not receive information on. I incentivize the managers for accuracy. Then, the managers are asked to make comparisons on the fairness of the two bonus schemes.

In stage 2, the managers are required to make a choice for two workers who will be recruited in the future to work on the same task. The managers choose whether to pay them by the tournament bonus scheme or the equal bonus scheme. Half of the managers are randomly determined to earn a commission proportional to their matched workers’ output. The other half do not earn commissions. The managers are aware that their decisions will be implemented with a one-out-of-ten chance.
After making the decision, I ask the managers to write a few sentences on the reasons behind their choices.

In stage 3, the managers answer the questions in stage 1 and stage 2 again, but considering for the gender of the workers.

Finally, the managers answer a short questionnaire on their personal characteristics.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization down by a computer
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,000 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The treatment variation is two by two, thus, there will be approximately 250 individuals in each treatment cell.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
NHH Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
NHH-IRB 42/22
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials