Strategic Behavior in Contests with Heterogeneous Agents: Evidence from the Field

Christoph Riedl, Tom Grad, Christopher Lettl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Contests and tournaments are widely used to spur innovation and motivate behavior. At the same time contests have been shown to be prone to strategic behaviors like e.g. sabotage. We investigate two forms of strategic behavior of heterogeneous agents in large contests. Based on a formal model of agent behavior we develop propositions and test these in a dataset of more than 38 million observations of peer-ratings of 74,525 individuals from 511 real world contests over a 10 year period. We find that strategic behaviors might influence the outcome of up to 12\% of contests and that the use is highly ability-dependent: While self-promotion is the dominant form of strategic behavior for low ability agents, high ability agents are both culprits and targets of sabotage. By analyzing three natural experiments we enrich our findings and can exclude alternative explanations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Seventy-ninth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsGuclu Atinc
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019: Understanding the Inclusive Organization - Boston, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
Conference number: 79


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Cite this