Abstract

Despite decades of research on heuristics and biases, evidence on the effect of large incentives on cognitive biases is scant. We test the effect of incentives on four widely documented biases: base-rate neglect, anchoring, failure of contingent thinking, and intuitive reasoning. In laboratory experiments with 1,236 college students in Nairobi, we implement three incentive levels: no incentives, standard lab payments, and very high incentives. We find that very high stakes increase response times by 40% but improve performance only very mildly or not at all. In none of the tasks do very high stakes come close to de-biasing participants.

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