Sabotage in contests: A survey

Subhasish Modak Chowdhury, Oliver Gurtler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)
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A contest is a situation in which individuals expend irretrievable resources to win valuable prize(s). ‘Sabotage’ is a deliberate and costly act of damaging a rival’s' likelihood of winning the contest. Sabotage can be observed in, e.g., sports, war, promotion tournaments, political or marketing campaigns. In this article, we provide a model and various perspectives on such sabotage activities and review the economics literature analyzing the act of sabotage in contests. We discuss the theories and evidence highlighting the means of sabotage, why sabotage occurs, and the effects of sabotage on individual players and on overall welfare, along with possible mechanisms to reduce sabotage. We note that most sabotage activities are aimed at the ablest player, the possibility of sabotage reduces productive effort exerted by the players, and sabotage may lessen the effectiveness of public policies, such as affirmative action, or information revelation in contests. We discuss various policies that a designer may employ to counteract sabotage activities. We conclude by pointing out some areas of future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-155
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number1
Early online date2 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2015

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