Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Alyce M. Dickinson

Second Advisor

Dr. Jack Michael

Third Advisor

Dr. Brad Huitema

Fourth Advisor

Dr. John Austin


This study examined whether low percentages of incentive pay would be as effective as high percentages in maintaining work performance in the presence of competitive alternative activities. Incentives may increase performance primarily by decreasing time spent performing alternative activities. Although the link between performance and pay is tighter when the percentage of incentive pay is higher, laboratory studies have not found the expected difference. It is possible that previous simulations of work settings have not offered realistic competing contingencies. This study used a computer simulation of a quality inspection task and provided computer games as alternative activities to participants who reported playing such games frequently. Three percentages of incentive pay were examined: 0% or base pay only, 10%, and 100%. Opportunities to play computer games were provided either two or four times during the 70-minute work period. A between group, 3 x 2 factorial design was used. Subjects were 106 college students who were randomly assigned to one of six conditions. A factorial analysis of variance was conducted on two primary dependent variables: Number of screens completed correctly and time working, as well as a number of secondary, composite measures. A correlational analysis was also conducted to determine the relationship between time working and correct screens.

Neither the pay system nor the number of game opportunities significantly affected the number of screens completed correctly. Large within group variation prevented the detection of between group differences. Participants who received incentive pay did work significantly longer than participants who received base pay only, but there was no statistically significant difference between the two incentive groups. Those who received only two opportunities to play computer games worked more than those who received four. The results indicated that, although time working was a function of performance contingent pay and the number of opportunities to take a break, a higher percentage of incentive pay did not increase the amount of time working. There was, however, a strong positive correlation between time working and correct screens, indicating that the longer participants spent working, the more correct screens they were likely to complete.


Fifth Advisor: Dr. Janet Ellis

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access