Quitting is an important issue but its determinants have not received extensive research. Quitting lets an individual benefit from alternative opportunities but it usually also has costs, either monetary or moral, or both. There are also many reasons to believe that quitting is affected by social interactions and by observing others’ quitting decisions. This is particularly the case when thinking about quitting addictive behavior.
The researchers paid 104 undergrads to work for up to 75 minutes: a compulsory 15 minute followed by 60 minutes in which the participant could stop working at any time. Researchers Julie Rosaz, Robert Slonim, and Marie Claire Villeval found that if workers are not alone and allowed to interact with each other, they are more prone to quit at the same time:
We find that allowing individuals to work with a co-worker present does not increase worker’s productivity. However, the presence of a peer in all working conditions causes workers to quit at more similar times. When, and only when, communication is allowed, workers are significantly more likely to (1) stay longer if their partner is still working, and (2) work longer the more productive they are. We conclude that when workers receive a piece-rate wage, critical peer effects occur only when workers can communicate with each other.