Academic Positions

  • Present 2016

    PostDoc

    Monash University, Department of Economics

  • 2016 2015

    PostDoc

    Stony Brook University, Department of Political Science

Education

  • Ph.D. 2016

    Ph.D. in Economics

    University of Nottingham

  • M.Sc.2011

    M.Sc. in Behavioural Economics

    University of Nottingham

  • Bachelor2010

    B.A. in Economics

    B.S. in Mathematics

    Shanghai Jiaotong University

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Disappointment Aversion and Social Comparisons in a Real-Effort Competition

Simon Gächter, Lingbo Huang, Martin Sefton
Journal Paper Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract

We present an experiment to investigate the source of disappointment aversion in a sequential real-effort competition. Specifically, we study the contribution of social comparison effects to the disappointment aversion previously identified in a two-person real-effort competition (Gill and Prowse, 2012). To do this we compare "social" and "asocial" versions of the Gill and Prowse experiment, where the latter treatment removes the scope for social comparisons. If disappointment aversion simply reflects an asymmetric evaluation of losses and gains we would expect it to survive in our asocial treatment. Alternatively, if losing to or winning against another person affects the evaluation of losses/gains, as we show would be theoretically the case under asymmetric inequality aversion, we would expect treatment differences. We find behavior in social and asocial treatments to be similar, suggesting that social comparisons have little impact in this setting. Unlike in Gill and Prowse we do not find evidence of disappointment aversion.

Combining "Real Effort" with Induced Effort Costs: The Ball-Catching Task

Simon Gächter, Lingbo Huang, Martin Sefton
Journal Paper Experimental Economics, Volume 19, Issue 4, December 2016, 687-712

Abstract

We introduce the "ball-catching task", a novel computerized task, which combines a tangible action ("catching balls") with induced material cost of effort. The central feature of the ball-catching task is that it allows researchers to manipulate the cost of effort function as well as the production function, which permits quantitative predictions on effort provision. In an experiment with piece-rate incentives we find that the comparative static and the point predictions on effort provision are remarkably accurate. We also present experimental findings from three classic experiments, namely, team production, gift exchange and tournament, using the task. All of the results are closely in line with the stylized facts from experiments using purely induced values. We conclude that the ball-catching task combines the advantages of real effort tasks with the use of induced values, which is useful for theory-testing purposes as well as for applications.

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Prize and Incentives in Double-Elimination Tournaments

Lingbo Huang
Journal Paper Economics Letters, Volume 147, October 2016, Pages 116-120

Abstract

I examine a game-theoretical model of two variants of double- elimination tournaments, and derive the equilibrium behavior of symmetric players and the optimal prize allocation assuming a designer aims to maximize total effort. I compare these theoretical properties to the well-known single-elimination tournament.

An Empirical Investigation of Individual and Team Contests

Lingbo Huang
PhD Thesis University of Nottingham, January 2016

Abstract

This thesis presents an empirical investigation of individual and team contests using both lab experiments and field data. The thesis is comprised of five chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the overarching theme of this thesis and the common methodological tool, which is a novel real effort task used in the lab experiments. Chapter 2 discusses this real effort task in more detail and shows its usefulness in studying behavioural responses to incentives by presenting a series of experiments, including individual production with piece-rate incentives, team production, gift exchange, and tournament, using the task. All of the results are closely in line with theoretical predictions and, where applicable, the stylised facts from experiments using purely induced values. Chapter 3 experimentally examines the role of interpersonal comparisons in an individual contest. The experiment follows Gill and Prowse (2012) and is designed to investigate the source of disappointment aversion, that is, whether it is purely an asocial concept, akin to loss aversion, or fuelled by interpersonal comparisons. The new evidence however rejects predictions of the disappointment aversion model, both when interpersonal comparisons are possible and when they are not. Chapter 4 empirically examines strategic be- haviour of contestants in a dynamic "best-of-three" team contest. I find evidence of "strategic neutrality" in both field data from high-stakes professional squash team tournaments and lab data from an experiment: the outcomes of previous battles do not affect the current battle. The lab data however reveal that the neu- trality prediction does not perfectly hold at the level of individual efforts. Chapter 5 concludes the thesis by summarising all findings in previous chapters, discussing the limitations, and pointing to directions for future research.

Impact of Relative Performance Feedback on Beliefs and Performance across Dissimilar Tasks

Lingbo Huang, Zahra Murad
Working Paper

Abstract

Employees typically have to work on multiple dissimilar tasks that require unrelated skill sets. While past research strongly supports that feedback influences beliefs, preferences within same tasks, little is known about effects of feedback across dissimilar tasks. In a novel laboratory experiment using two unrelated real effort tasks, we find that feedback of relative performance in the first task causally affects confidence beliefs and preferences for comparative pay in the second task. Our data also exhibit differential effects of feedback on women’s and men’s preferences, which help close the pre-existing gender gap in preferences. Analysis of economic efficiency shows that negative feedback in the first task improves "would-be" payoffs of low performing subjects in the second task by discouraging them from choosing the comparative pay option. The results have important implications for organizations to understand both the powers and the limitations of using relative performance feedback as intervention policies.

Is There No 'I' in Team? Rational Players in Dynamic Team Competition

Lingbo Huang
Working Paper

Abstract

Empirical literature consistently challenges the rationality assumption of individuals’ behaviour in dynamic situations and in teamwork environments. Here I examine rational forward-looking behaviour in a dynamic team competition with multi-period "battles". Using field data from professional squash team tournaments (820 matches), I provide evidence consistent with the game-theoretical prediction of "strategic neutrality" in team matches: the outcomes of previous battles do not affect the outcome of the current battle. Further, by exploiting a unique feature that each battle is in itself a multi-period contest between two contestants, I exclude another psychological mechanism that might explain the neutrality result, thus establishing the empirical relevance of its game-theoretical foundation.

Fighting Alone or Fighting for a Team: Evidence from Experimental Pairwise Contests

Lingbo Huang, Zahra Murad
Working Paper

Abstract

People who compete alone may entertain different psychological motivations from those who compete for a team. Using a real-effort experiment, we examine the behavioural consequences of these psychological motivations, absent strategic interdependence and uncertainty among team members. We exploit a dynamic pairwise team contest in which 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 intra-team communication, behaviour follows a neutral effect. 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.

Pulling for the Team: Competition Between Individuals, Groups, and Political Partisans

Lingbo Huang, Peter DeScioli, Zahra Murad
Working Paper

Abstract

People form teams throughout society including sports teams, corporations, and political parties. Here we use economic experiments to investigate how people balance the desire for their team’s victory versus their own expenditure of effort. We designed an economic tug of war in which the side that expends greater effort wins a reward. In Experiment 1, participants competed individually or in teams, which were assigned arbitrarily. In Experiment 2, participants competed individually or in teams based on their political party, Democrats against Republicans. In both experiments, we find that people shirked on teams: Participants exerted less effort in teams than in individual competition. The results support theories about free-riding in groups, extending these observations to intergroup competition. The findings depart from theories about the automatic potency of social identity and partisan motives. We discuss why it can be so challenging for teams, including political parties, to mobilize toward a common goal.