Performance Effects of Setting a High Reference Point for Peer-Performance Comparison

53 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2018

See all articles by Henry Eyring

Henry Eyring

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

V. G. Narayanan

Harvard University - Accounting & Control Unit

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 15, 2018

Abstract

We conduct a field experiment, based on a registered report accepted by the Journal of Accounting Research, to test performance effects of setting a high reference point for peer-performance comparison. Relative to providing the median as a reference point for online students to compare themselves to, providing the top quartile: damps performance for those below the median; boosts performance for those between the median and top quartile; and, in the case of outcome but not process comparison, boosts performance for those above the top quartile. We do not find that either reference point yields a greater average performance effect. However, providing the more effective reference point in each partition of initial performance yields a 40% greater performance effect than providing either reference point uniformly. Students access the online courses intermittently over the span of a year. Our effects derive from small portions of our treatment groups — 5% in the case of process comparison and 26% in the case of outcome comparison — who accessed treatment and who were, on average, more active leading up to and during our intervention.

Keywords: relative performance information, reference points, performance, social comparison

JEL Classification: C93, D91, I21, M41

Suggested Citation

Eyring, Henry and Narayanan, V. G., Performance Effects of Setting a High Reference Point for Peer-Performance Comparison (January 15, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3102430 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3102430

Henry Eyring (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
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Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

V. G. Narayanan

Harvard University - Accounting & Control Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6359 (Phone)
617-496-7363 (Fax)

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