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New article by Ágnes Szabó-Morvai and Anna Lovász in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics


Competition, Subjective Feedback, and Gender Gaps in Performance

Anna Lovász – Boldmaa Bat-Erdene – Ewa Cukrowska-Torzewska – Mariann Rigó – Ágnes Szabó-Morvai

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics

Available online 5 November 2022



• We test for gender differences in the response to competition (seeing a leaderboard) and to receiving subjective feedback (graphics and phrases) during an online game
• Both male and female players increase persistence, and male players’ performance improves significantly when a leaderboard is shown
• Female players’ performance only improves when competition is paired with supportive or rewarding feedback
• Personalized feedback, targeted based on individual characteristics and tasks, can potentially mitigate gender gaps in performance, particularly in competitive settings






We use an online game with randomized treatments to study gender differences in the impacts of competition and subjective feedback. 5191 participants were randomly selected into 8 groups: players either saw a Top 10 leaderboard or not (competition), and within these, they received no subjective feedback, supportive feedback, rewarding feedback, or “trash talk” (feedback type). Seeing a leaderboard increases the persistence (number of games played) of all players, but only increases the performance (score) of male players. When the leaderboard is combined with supportive feedback, the performance of female players increases as well. This points to important heterogeneities by feedback type and individual characteristics and suggests that personalized feedback may be key for decreasing gender gaps, particularly in competitive settings such as STEM fields.

Key words: Gender Gaps, Performance,  Competition,  Feedback

JEL codes: I24, J16, J24, M54

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