Cool kid of the week


Who doesn’t like awards?  When Alexander first went to school becoming Cool Kid of the Week was pretty much the major priority. After having earned the award a few times, resentment set in when Alex realised that the award seemed pretty randomly passed around and that in fact if you were naughty, that seemed to be a pretty good strategy for Cooldom, as  increasingly frustrated teachers tried with increasingly fractious kids to see if a bit of Cooldom would do the trick. Meanwhile one of the early pioneers of behavioural economics, Bruno Frey is trying to quantify how valuable awards are.  And this picture of the performance of call centre workers before and after either receiving or not receiving an award tells a thousand words.  In the words of the article (pdf)

Result 1. Awards increase the performance of recipients as compared to nonrecipients subsequent to winning.

Result 2. Receiving an award improves the performance of winners, whereas the performance of nonrecipients remains una ected.

But . . . the plot thickens. It turns out that the teachers’ strategy looks pretty on the money.

Another explanation for the observed increase in performance may be the increased visibility of the award winner in the month following the award. Recipients may feel a need to live up to the honor of having received an award for their voluntary work behaviors, and this may a ect their core performances. This e ect should be stronger for award winners whose core performance was below average prior to the award. The data allow us to test this hypothesis by separating the winners into two groups: those individuals who performed below average and those who performed above average.

Looking at how much performance increases between the month of the award and one month later, we nd that, on average, the rating of low performers increases by 0.58, whereas the performance of high performers decreases by 0.17. The one-sample t-test indicates that both coecients are highly signi cantly di erent from zero. This di fferential impact of winning an award supports the notion that the increase in performance is caused by social pressure or the winners wanting to live up to the award with respect to core performance.

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12 years ago

“resentment set in when Alex realised that the award seemed pretty randomly passed around and that in fact if you were naughty, that seemed to be a pretty good strategy for Cooldom”
This is of course what is never measured in many situations (such as workplace performance), since whilst it’s easy to determine the performance of someone given an award — it’s hard to even identify those that thought they should get the award but didn’t and the effect it has on them, except in circumstances where obvious things happen, like they find a new job. Thus, whilst there might be a nice effect with the award winner in many circumstances, there may be an overall decrease in the rest compared to when awards are not given at all.