Testing the Effect of Incentives on Effort Intensity Using Real-Effort Tasks



We identify seven factors researchers should consider when designing a real effort task to capture effort intensity: (1) intrinsic motivation; (2) task-specific skill; (3) task strategies beyond exerting effort; (4) fine unit of performance; (5) similar within-round task experience across participants; (6) learning effects; and (7) consistency in task difficulty across rounds. With these factors in mind, we design an experiment to test for incentive effects on effort intensity using several real-effort tasks: the decode task, the letter search task, and the slider task. Overall, we find significant variation across tasks in our ability to detect incentive effects and to limit the effects of the seven factors above, with the strongest evidence coming from our version of the slider task. Our study contributes to research by helping researchers who are considering the use of real-effort intensive tasks. In addition, our results highlight the difficulty in designing real-effort tasks to effectively capture effort intensity.