Fairness and Willingness to Compete

51 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2021

See all articles by Thomas Buser

Thomas Buser

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE)

Alexander W. Cappelen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Bertil Tungodden

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 12, 2021

Abstract

The large experimental literature on competitiveness has typically ignored a key feature of many competitive settings in society: competition is not always fair. The playing field may be uneven and competitors of unequal strength. In our experiment, we systematically vary the fairness of the competition setting. We find that concerns for the chance of winning trump concerns for fairness for most, but not all, people. A majority of participants who compete under fair circumstances are willing to impose competition on opponents who have been exogenously handicapped or are known to be weaker. A majority are also willing to sabotage the performance of their opponent to increase their own chances of winning. However, a large minority do not exploit the costless opportunity to sabotage the performance of their opponent, suggesting at least some concerns for fairness. Our results are relevant for management practices, in particular for the decision to introduce competitive mechanisms in businesses and organizations. By studying gender differences under a range of novel competitive settings, we also shed new light on the much-discussed gender difference in willingness to compete.

Keywords: Competitiveness, Fairness

JEL Classification: D90

Suggested Citation

Buser, Thomas and Cappelen, Alexander W. and Tungodden, Bertil, Fairness and Willingness to Compete (March 12, 2021). NHH Dept. of Economics Discussion Paper No. 08/2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3804698 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3804698

Thomas Buser

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam School of Economics (ASE) ( email )

Roetersstraat 11
Amsterdam, North Holland 1018 WB
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/thomasbuser/

Alexander W. Cappelen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Bertil Tungodden (Contact Author)

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

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