Given vs. Earned: The Effects of Managerial Attention on Performance - A Field Experiment

Last registered on August 03, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Given vs. Earned: The Effects of Managerial Attention on Performance - A Field Experiment
Initial registration date
August 01, 2022

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
August 03, 2022, 3:11 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

University of Vechta

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Saarland University
PI Affiliation
University of Vechta
PI Affiliation
University of Vechta

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This paper studies the effects of managerial attention on physical activity in a field experiment. In our experiment, the agents can continuously and repeatedly choose their own work effort, which has direct effects on a health-related outcome. To increase efforts and outcomes, the principal provides managerial attention depending on treatments. We systematically vary between groups if and how agents get managerial attention. Thus, we compare groups who won’t receive managerial attention at all with a group where managerial attention occurs randomly and two groups where managerial attention directly depends on participants performance. Managerial attention will be provided e.g., in the form of short videos, messages, or voice notes at a max. of 3 days a week. Therefore, there are multiple occasions a week where managerial attention is provided external or earned by performance.

We run the experiment within an ongoing, 365-day long study with about 600 participants who all aim at improving their physical activity. All those subjects have been positively health screened, are using a smartphone app (ActiVAtE Behavior) to transmit their steps (main performance measure) in a timely manner and have provided extensive individual survey data including socio-demographics, body measures, health goals, motivation, etc.. Furthermore, we have gathered their economic preferences (e.g. competitiveness, social preferences, risk preferences, cheating) using survey-based, incentivized experimental games (e.g. Ultimatum Game, Public Goods Games, Holt-Laury-Lottery, Dictator Game, Coin Toss Game). Besides, we use an incentivized belief elicitation about their previous relative performance. Most of the participants are also equipped with a fitness tracker (medisana ViFit Run) to collect data without carrying their smartphones. The consent forms and data protection concept have been approved by the University of Vechta’s data protection officer. Since participants have been recruited via television and radio within a region with about 1 million inhabitants and there was never an in-person individual or group meeting, people usually do not know each other.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Baar, Sandra et al. 2022. "Given vs. Earned: The Effects of Managerial Attention on Performance - A Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. August 03.
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Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Performance (measured steps), performance changes, dynamic effects on performance
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design

1. We randomize all participants into treatment groups with varying conditions for managerial attention. Managerial attention contains the information that the principal (primary investigator) recognizes the work effort and results of the agents. Therefore, we build expectations about granting recognition, which are then systematically met or not met.
2. Depending on the treatment, subjects receive an announcement that there will be "attention" from the primary investigator multiple times over the next six weeks and also which condition must be fulfilled for ongoing managerial attention.
3. Subjects, with the exception of the control group, receive management attention e.g., in the for short videos, messages, or voice notes, depending on the treatment. Some groups receive attention regardless of their performance, while other groups must meet performance-based conditions.

Participants are randomly distributed into different treatment groups (n ≈ 150 participants/group). We designed the following 4 groups, based on a between-subject design.

[Group 1] Control group, will receive no messages or managerial attention at all.

[Group 2] Participants in this group receive a short announcement that occurrence of recognition is independent of performance (i.e., happens with good/bad performance or declining/increasing/staying the same). Over the six weeks, we let the random number generator decide the probability whether there is attention or not multiple times per week. Therefore, the range of managerial attention messages lies between 0 (min.) and 3 (max.) messages per week.

[Group 3] Participants in this group receive a short announcement that occurrence of recognition is dependent on performance and only occurs as performance increases. If participants increase their individual performance, they receive managerial attention, if they hold their performance or its decreasing, they won’t. The range of managerial attention messages lies between 0 (min.) if the participants never managed to increase the performance to 3 (max.) messages per week if the participants constantly increase the performance.

[Group 4] Participants in this group receive a short announcement that occurrence of recognition is dependent on performance and occurs not only when performance increases, but also when performance remains constant. The range of managerial attention messages lies between 0 (min.) if the participants never decrease the performance multiple times to 3 (max.) messages per week if the participant performance is constant or increases multiple times.

We expect the following trends in performance:

H1: With decreasing expectations that the principal will perceive their performance, subjects lower their performance.

H2a: If subjects have an expectation that the probability of managerial attention increases with performance, they increase their performance.

H2b: If the probability of managerial attention occurring depends on performance, then poor (measured in absolute terms) /decreased (measured in relative terms) performance leads directly to even poorer/further decreased performance.

H3a: Over time, we find that subjects who have not received managerial attention for a longer period of time/who have repeatedly failed to receive expected recognition lower their performance.

H3b: If during a downward trend, triggered by the withdrawal of expected managerial attention, the principal takes corrective action through managerial attention, he will no longer be able to stop the drop in performance, since the principal's reputation is permanently damaged.

H3c: The downward trend does not occur when managerial attention is independent of effort or also relates to poor performance.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization into the different treatments is done by a computerized random draw.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
About 600.
Sample size: planned number of observations
About 600.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
By treatment arms: about 150
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
German Association for Experimental Economic Research e.V.
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number