Social Comparison and Contests

In this project, we study the effect of social comparison on inequality in contest environment. We hypothesize that the effects of social comparison on effort will differ for top-performers and bottom-performers in a way that inequality increases, where we consider inequality both in terms of the dispersion of outcomes and the predictability of individual performance. The strength of the social comparison can be manipulated by the structure of the feedback, provided to contestants during the contest. We found that the contests that implemented and emphasized relative evaluation—how well the contestant performs in comparison to the leader—as provisional feedback are better suited to satisfy the experienced and highly-skilled community members, while precluding newcomers and under-performers from learning and engaging more with the community.