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Motivation and Incentives in an Online Labor Market

Seminar: Ola Kvaløy, UiS

Place: TBA Date and time: Thursday 22. March 2018 13:00 - 14.00


An increasing number of workers do simple work in online labor markets. In contrast to employees within firms, online workers are not exposed to leaders who can inspire their workforce with words and actions. This makes motivation more challenging. In this paper we present results from a large scale real effort experiment on Amazon Mechanical Turk, investigating the effect of performance pay and two common leadership techniques: Positive expectations and specific goals. We find that positive expectations have a significant negative effect on quantity - and no effect on quality - irrespective of how the workers are paid. On average, workers who receive positive expectations before they start to work, have a 5% lower output than those who do not. Goal-setting has no significant effect, neither on quantity or quality. Performance pay, however, has a strong positive effect on quantity, although we find no difference between high and low piece rates. Finally, we find no evidence of a multitask problem. Piece rates have no negative effects on the quality of work, even if it is fully possible for the workers to be less accurate and thereby substituting quality for higher quantity.