Fighting Alone or Fighting for a Team: Evidence from Experimental Pairwise Contests
Lingbo Huang and Zahra Murad
People who compete alone may entertain different psychological motivations from those who compete for a team. Using a real-effort experiment, we aim to discover the psychological effects of the team situation on individual behaviour absent of the additional strategic interdependence and uncertainty among team members. We exploit a dynamic pairwise team contest in which the strategic uncertainties among team members play a minimised role in individual rational behaviour; and we create strategically-equivalent individual contests to isolate the pure psychological effects of team situation on individual competitive behaviour. We find that behaviour in individual contests and in sterile team contests follows a psychological momentum effect in which leaders work harder than trailers. In contrast, in team contests enriched with inter-team communication, behaviour follows strategic neutrality. We discuss the implications of our results for theoretical modelling of contests and practical implications for the optimal design of team incentive schemes and personnel management.