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Normatively Framed Relative Performance Feedback – Field Experiment and Replication

Brade, Raphael and Himmler, Oliver and Jäckle, Robert (2018): Normatively Framed Relative Performance Feedback – Field Experiment and Replication.

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Feedback can help individuals put their performance into perspective, especially when transitioning into a new environment such as university or a different job. In a randomized field experiment we give first-year university students normatively framed relative performance feedback about their accumulated course credits. We find an increase in subsequent performance, but only when the feedback is positive. Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that the improved performance is not driven by unobserved characteristics of those receiving positive feedback, but that it is indeed due to the positive rather than negative nature of the feedback. We administer a replication experiment with the next wave of first-year students one year later and reproduce the results. Survey data provides suggestive evidence that positive feedback has an effect on behavior when students underestimate their relative performance, and that consistent with a mechanism of selective information processing, individuals focus on positive feedback to adjust their beliefs.

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