Competition for novelty reduces information sampling in a research game: a registered report

Leonid Tiokhin (Corresponding author), Maxime Derex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Incentive structures shape scientists’ research practices. One
incentive in particular, rewarding priority of publication, is
hypothesized to harm scientific reliability by promoting rushed,
low-quality research. Here, we develop a laboratory experiment
to test whether competition affects information sampling and
guessing accuracy in a game that mirrors aspects of scientific
investigation. In our experiment, individuals gather data in
order to guess true states of the world and face a tradeoff
between guessing quickly and increasing accuracy by acquiring
more information. To test whether competition affects accuracy,
we compare a treatment in which individuals are rewarded for
each correct guess to a treatment where individuals face the
possibility of being ‘scooped’ by a competitor. In a second set of
conditions, we make information acquisition contingent on
solving arithmetic problems to test whether competition
increases individual effort (i.e. arithmetic-problem solving
speed). We find that competition causes individuals to make
guesses using less information, thereby reducing their accuracy
(H1a and H1b confirmed). We find no evidence that competition
increases individual effort (H2, inconclusive evidence). Our
experiment provides proof of concept that rewarding priority of
publication can incentivize individuals to acquire less
information, producing lower-quality research as a consequence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number180934
Number of pages20
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

Keywords

  • Competition
  • Incentive structures
  • Information sampling
  • Metascience
  • Priority rule
  • information sampling
  • incentive structures
  • priority rule
  • competition
  • metascience

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