The impact of peer performance information on subsequent cooperation
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I design an experiment to examine whether peer performance information (PPI) in an individual productive task can enhance subsequent cooperation by revealing coworker similarities. In groups of four, participants first individually complete either a relatively easy or difficult math task, and then engage in a public-goods game in which individual contributions are collectively beneficial but individually suboptimal. Results indicate that when group members exhibit similar individual task performance and when the individual task is difficult, PPI significantly increases individual contributions in the public-goods game. Conceptually, PPI in such settings reveals the challenge common to all group members, thereby establishing a social bond that enhances subsequent cooperation. Conversely, when PPI reveals dissimilar performance among group members, PPI does not appear to reduce cooperation. Overall, in contrast to the prior focus on the relative differences revealed by performance information about peers, my study suggests that PPI can increase rather than decrease subsequent cooperation by revealing individual similarities. The findings provide important practical implications on conditions under which organizations can benefit from the positive spillover effect of PPI on subsequent employee cooperation.