In Search of Informed Discretion: An Experimental Investigation of Fairness and Trust Reciprocity

Victor Maas, Marcel van Rinsum, KL Towry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates managerial discretion in compensation decisions in a team setting, in which a measure of the team's aggregate performance is readily available from the accounting system. Specifically, we examine the willingness of managers to obtain additional, costly information that would supplement this measure and allow the managers to more accurately assess individual contributions to team output. Using theory from behavioral economics that incorporates social preferences (i.e., fairness and trust reciprocity) into the managers' utility function, we predict and demonstrate experimentally that managers' willingness to obtain the costly information increases as the team's aggregate performance becomes a more noisy measure of individual performance. Further, we predict and demonstrate that managers' willingness will be greater for relatively high versus relatively low levels of aggregate performance. The study contributes to the literature on subjective performance evaluation by identifying how social preferences influence managers' use of discretion in evaluation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-644
Number of pages28
JournalThe Accounting Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Research programs

  • EUR ESE 33


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