Rewards versus punishments in additive, weakest-link, and best-shot contests

Yoshio Kamijo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we provide a theory to explain how bottom punishment or top reward enhances performance of teams when there is heterogeneity across players in cost-performance relationships. In contrast to the existing literature, we consider three types of performance functions: additive, weakest link (the performance is the min of performances of n contestants), and best shot (the performance is the max of performances of n contestants). For any of the three types, we derive easy-to-check sufficient conditions to judge whether reward or punishment is better. From the sufficient condition for the additive performance function, we know that punishment is better for less heterogeneous people and reward is better for more heterogeneous people. In addition, the sufficient conditions for the best-shot and weakest-link cases suggest that some unintuitive results hold; even under the best-shot (weakest link) performance function, the bottom punishment (top reward) becomes better when the gap in the abilities of contestants becomes very small (large).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Contest theory
  • Heterogeneity
  • Punishment
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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