The effect of a reference point in task difficulty: How does a task that becomes irrelevant affect effort, feelings and perceptions

Alisa Voslinsky, Ofer H. Azar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We examine the effect of an irrelevant task that may become a reference point on subjects’ effort, feelings and perceptions. All subjects complete up to 25 tasks and are paid $0.10 per task solved correctly. However, some subjects have an easy task of finding one letter and others have a hard task of finding two letters. In the irrelevant-task treatment conditions subjects are told about the two types of tasks and are then assigned randomly to one. In addition, there are two control conditions, and in each control condition subjects are assigned to a specific task without the other task being possible or mentioned. Subjects in the irrelevant-task treatments express more positive (negative) feelings when assigned to the easy (hard) task. The control conditions that have no reference point of another task are in between the two irrelevant-task treatments in the feeling ratings. We hypothesized that for a given task, the subjects in the experimental conditions that have more positive feelings will also solve more tasks, but this hypothesis was not supported by the data. Finally, subjects who receive the easy task complete more tasks than the ones with the hard task.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-815
Number of pages19
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Volume17
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • effort
  • feelings and perceptions
  • incentives
  • irrelevant task
  • real-effort task
  • reference point

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences (all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics

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