Who wants to cooperate-and why? Attitude and perception of crowd workers in online labor markets

Zachary Fulker, Christoph Riedl


Existing literature and studies predominantly focus on how crowdsource workers individually complete tasks and projects. Our study examines crowdsource workers' willingness to work collaboratively. We report results from a survey of 122 workers on a leading online labor platform (Upwork) to examine crowd workers' behavioral preferences for collaboration and explore several antecedents of cooperative behaviors. We then test if actual cooperative behavior matches with workers' behavioral preferences through an incentivized social dilemma experiment. We find that respondents cooperate at a higher rate (85%) than reported in previous comparable studies (between 50-75%). This high rate of cooperation is likely explained by an ingroup bias. Using a sequential mediation model we demonstrate the importance of a sense of shared expectations and accountability for cooperation. We contribute to a better understanding of the potential for collaborative work in crowdsourcing by accessing if and what social factors and collective culture exist among crowd workers. We discuss the implications of our results for platform designers by highlighting the importance of platform features that promote shared expectations and improve accountability. Overall, contrary to existing literature and predictions, our results suggest that crowd workers display traits that are more consistent with belonging to a coherent group with a shared collective culture, rather than being anonymous actors in a transaction-based market.

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