Experimental Economics

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 284–301 | Cite as

Why real leisure really matters: incentive effects on real effort in the laboratory

  • Brice CorgnetEmail author
  • Roberto Hernán-González
  • Eric Schniter
Original Paper


On-the-job leisure is a pervasive feature of the modern workplace. We studied its impact on work performance in a laboratory experiment by either allowing or restricting Internet access. We used a 2 × 2 experimental design in which subjects completing real-effort work tasks could earn cash according to either individual- or team-production incentive schemes. Under team pay, production levels were significantly lower when Internet browsing was available than when it was not. Under individual pay, however, no differences in production levels were observed between the treatment in which Internet was available and the treatment in which it was not. In line with standard incentive theory, individual pay outperformed team pay across all periods of the experiment when Internet browsing was available. This was not the case, however, when Internet browsing was unavailable. These results demonstrate that the integration of on-the-job leisure activities into an experimental labor design is crucial for uncovering incentive effects.


Incentive Free riding Internet access Experimental method 

JEL Classification

C92 D23 M52 


  1. Abeler, J., Falk, A., Goette, L., & Huffman, D. (2011). Reference points and effort provision. The American Economic Review, 101(2), 470–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alchian, A., & Demsetz, H. (1972). Production, information costs, and economic organization. American Economic Review, 62, 777–795.Google Scholar
  3. Alder, G., Noel, T., & Ambrose, M. (2006). Clarifying the effects of Internet monitoring on job attitudes: The mediating role of employee trust. Information & Management, 43(7), 894–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bartling, B., Fehr, E., Maréchal, M. A., & Schunk, D. (2009). Egalitarianism and competitiveness. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 99(2), 93–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolton, P., & Dewatripont, M. (2005). Contract Theory. Cambridge: MIT Press Books.Google Scholar
  6. Carpenter, J. P., Matthews, P., & Schirm, J. (2010). Tournaments and office politics: Evidence from a real effort experiment. American Economic Review, 100, 504–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Charness, N., & Campbell, J. I. D. (1988). Acquiring skill at mental calculation in adulthood: a task decomposition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 117, 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Charness, G., & Kuhn, V. (2011). Lab labor: What can labor economists learn from the lab?. In O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (Eds.), Handbook of Labor Economics (chap. 03, pp. 229–330). Elsevier.Google Scholar
  9. Charness, G., Masclet, D. & Villeval, M. C. (2010). Competitive preferences and status as an incentive: Experimental evidence. IZA Discussion Paper 5034, Bonn, and GATE WP 10–16.Google Scholar
  10. Charness, G., & Villeval, M. C. (2009). Cooperation and competition in intergenerational experiments in the field and laboratory. American Economic Review, 99(3), 956–978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chase, W. G., & Ericsson, K. A. (1982). Skill and working memory. In G. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 16, pp. 1–58). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Corgnet, B., Hernan-Gonzalez, R., & Rassenti, S. (2011). Real effort, real leisure and real-time. Supervision: Incentives and peer pressure in virtual organizations. Working Papers 11-05, Chapman University Economic Science Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18(1), 105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dickinson, D. (1999). An Experimental examination of labor supply and work intensities. Journal of Labor Economics, 17, 638–670.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dickinson, D., & Villeval, M. C. (2008). Does monitoring decrease work effort?: The complementarity between Agency and crowding-out theories. Games and Economic Behavior, 63, 56–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dohmen, T., & Falk, A. (2011). Performance pay and multi-dimensional sorting: Productivity, preferences and gender. American Economic Review, 101(2), 556–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eriksson, T., Poulsen, A., & Villeval, M. C. (2009). Feedback and incentives: Experimental evidence. Labour Economics, 16(6), 679–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Falk, A., & Huffman, D. (2007). Studying labor market institutions in the lab: Minimum wages, employment protection, and workfare. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 163(1), 30–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Falk, A., & Ichino, A. (2006). Clean evidence on peer effects. Journal of Labor Economics, 24, 39–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gneezy, U., Niederle, M., & Rustichini, A. (2003). Performance in competitive environments: Gender differences. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118, 1049–1074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grosse, S., Putterman, L., & Rockenbach, B. (2011). Monitoring in teams: A model and experiment on the central monitor hypothesis. Journal of the European Economic Association, 9(4), 785–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hamilton, B., Nickerson, J., & Owan, H. (2003). Team incentives and worker heterogeneity: An empirical analysis of the impact of teams on productivity and participation. Journal of Political Economy, 111(3), 465–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holmström, B. (1982). Moral hazard in teams. Bell Journal of Economics, 13, 324–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones, S., Johnson-Yale, C., Millermaier, C., & Perez, F. S. (2009). Everyday life, online: U.S. college students’ use of the Internet. First Monday, 14(10).Google Scholar
  25. Koepp, M. J., Gunn, R. N., Lawrence, A. D., Cunningham, V. J., Dagher, A., Jones, T., et al. (1998). Evidence for striatal dopamine release during a video game. Nature, 393, 266–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Laffont, J. J., & Martimort, D. (2002). The Theory of incentives: The principal-agent model. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lazear, E. P. (2000). Performance pay and productivity. American Economic Review, 90(5), 1346–1361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ledyard, J. (1995). Public goods: A survey of experimental research. In J. H. Kagel & A. E. Roth (Eds.), Handbook of experimental economics (pp. 111–194). Princeton University Press: Princeton.Google Scholar
  29. Lei, V., Noussair, C. N., & Plott, C. R. (2001). Nonspeculative bubbles in experimental asset markets: Lack of common knowledge of rationality vs. actual irrationality. Econometrica, 69(4), 831–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Malachowski, D. (2005). Wasted time at work costing companies billions. San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 2005,
  31. Mohnen, A., Pokorny, K., & Sliwka, D. (2008). Transparency, inequity aversion, and the dynamics of peer pressure in teams: theory and evidence. Journal of Labor Economics, 26, 693–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Montmarquette, C., Rulliere, J., Villeval, M. C., & Zeiliger, R. (2004). Redesigning teams and incentives in a merger: An experiment with managers and students. Management Science, 50, 1379–1389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nalbantian, H., & Schotter, A. (1997). Productivity under group incentives: An experimental study. American Economic Review, 87(3), 314–341.Google Scholar
  34. Niederle, M., & Vesterlund, L. (2007). Do women shy away from competition? do men compete too much? The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 3(8), 1067–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Prendergast, C. (1999). The provision of incentives in firms. Journal of Economic Literature, 37(1), 7–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rutström, E., & Williams, M. (2000). Entitlements and fairness: An experimental study of distributive preferences. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 43(1), 75–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Smith, A. (2013). Smartphone ownership update. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Accessed 6th June 2013.
  38. Swed, F., & Eisenhart, C. (1943). Tables for testing randomness of grouping in a sequence of alternatives. Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 14, 66–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tamir, Diana I., & Mitchell, Jason P. (2012). Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(21), 8038–8043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Treadway, Michael T., et al. (2012). Dopaminergic mechanisms of individual differences in human effort-based decision-making. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32(18), 6170–6176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Van Dijk, F., Sonnemans, J., & van Winden, F. (2001). Incentive systems in a real effort experiment. European Economic Review, 45, 187–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Young, K. S. (2005). Internet addiction prevention and education: Preventive education training can reduce problematic Internet use in the workplace and help employers create a work environment that encourages identification and treatment of addictive online behaviors. The Journal of Employee Assistance, 15(3), 15–19.Google Scholar
  43. Young, K. S. (2006). The Internet and workplace transformation. Advances in Management Information Systems, 7, 193–204.Google Scholar
  44. Zapata-Phelan, C. P., Colquitt, J. A., Scott, B. A., & Livingston, B. (2009). Procedural justice, interactional justice, and task performance: The mediating role of intrinsic motivation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108(1), 93–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brice Corgnet
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roberto Hernán-González
    • 2
  • Eric Schniter
    • 1
  1. 1.Argyros School of Business and Economics, Chapman University, Economic Science InstituteChapman UniversityOrangeUSA
  2. 2.Economics DepartmentUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain

Personalised recommendations