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One Size Fits All? Gender Differences in the Effect of Subjective Feedback

Agnes Szabo-Morvai (), Anna Lovasz, Ewa Cukrowska-Torzewska, Mariann Rigo and Andrea Kiss
Additional contact information
Mariann Rigo: Institute of Gerontology at TU Dortmund University
Andrea Kiss: Duke University, North Carolina

No 1705, Budapest Working Papers on the Labour Market from Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies

Abstract: The effect of objective feedback on performance is often studied, while subjective feedback is largely neglected in the economics literature. We estimate the impact of positive subjective feedback - encouragement and praise - on effort and performance, and compare the effect by gender. We use a computer game, during which players are randomly chosen to be given either no feedback (control) or positive subjective feedback (treatment), and analyze the treatment effect on effort (clicks) and performance (score). Based on previous economic and psychology theories, we test the pathways through which subjective feedback can have an impact: on (1) effort, due to the updating of expected performance or direct (dis)utility from the feedback, or (2) marginal productivity. The results point to significant differences in the mean effects of subjective feedback by gender. For women, encouragement has a significant positive effect while praise has a significant negative effect on performance, while men are less responsive to subjective feedback in general. Gender differences are mostly explained by different confidence distributions, while there are no gender differences in treatment effects if confidence level is held fixed. The effects are mostly realized through changes in effort. These results suggest that better targeted supervisory communication in schools or workplaces can improve the performance of lower-confidence individuals and thereby decrease the gender gap in performance.

Keywords: gender differences; supervisory feedback; experimental economics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C90 D03 J16 M54 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 29 pages
Date: 2017-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-dem, nep-exp, nep-gen, nep-hrm and nep-upt
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