Groupe d’études et de recherche en analyse des décisions

Modeling Dynamic Incentives: Application to Basketball

Arthur Charpentier Professeur, Département de mathématiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

An important aspect of the strategy of most organizations is the provision of incentives to the employees to meet the organization’s objectives. Typically this implies tying pay to performance (see Prendergast, 1999). In order to reward employees for their effort, firms spend considerable resources on performance evaluations. In many cases, evaluation consists of comparing actual performance to a pre-defined individual target. Another frequently used format is relative performance evaluation. Relative performance evaluation may motivate employees to work harder.But it may also be demoralizing and create an excessively competitive workplace, which may hinder overall performance; see Lazear (1989). Determining the overall impact of relative performance evaluation is crucial for companies. Economic research on relative performance evaluation has mainly focused on the comparison of final performances between competitors,like in tournament theory, and on quantitative and subjective performance ratings (Lazear and Gibbs, 2009). In contrast, what happens during a competition and the impact of feedback frequency on effort have so far received little attention. Following Berger and Pope (2011), we decided to use a basketball application to get a better understanding of the role of the feedback information. Sports datasets allow to observe score and team behavior continuously (during a game but also during the season) which can be use as a proxy of the effort. Berger an Pope (2010) asked "can loosing lead to winning?" looking at the impact of the halftime score difference on winning probability in NCAA (college) and NBA (pro) games. More precisely, they studied whether a team loosing at halftime is more likely to win than expected using a logit model. They find that usually the higher the score difference the more likely the are to win. But if the halftime score difference is around 0 they observe a discontinuity: loosing with a small difference (e.g. down by 1 point) can lead to increase the effort and win the game. In this paper we try answer the question "when loosing lead to winning?".