About half of the executives in Washington-area high technology companies who exhibit an average or above-average performance in their jobs are paid above average, a new study has concluded.

The study of executive pay, released recently by Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., also concludes that, in contrast to current industry trends elsewhere among Fortune 1000 concerns, these companies rely on market value stock option plans as an executive reward, rather than on restricted stock plans.

Market plans provide stock whose cost is related to appreciation or depreciation of stock value.Under restricted stock plans, shares are awarded to recipients without cost, but with certain IRS restrictions. The shares then become available as these restrictions lapse, usually after a period of continuous employment.

The study, which discusses cash compensation--such as base salary, bonuses and other taxable direct compensation--and capital accumulation--such as stock or stock equivalent compensation--was drawn from fiscal year 1980 public information on the top five executives in 33 local corporations with sales ranging from $1 million to over $900 million.

The study works on the premise that since "Washington's high technology community generally appears to be more people-intensive and less capital-intensive than those in other locations," appropriate compensation for executives is "extremely critical."

The findings state that executive pay is more closely tied to annual revenue than to pre-tax earnings of capital employed; that, in many organizations, the total compensation of the top two executives is very close and that, among the companies with above-average return on equity, 55 percent of the top officers were paid above the "payline." The payline is defined as the relationship of total cash compensation to performance factors, such as return on equity.

The study also concluded that about 88 percent of the firms analyzed use stock options as the primary capital accumulation device; that options are awarded to the entire senior management group; that a small percentage of the companies award nonmarket-related plans, such as performance unit or restricted stock, and that relatively few companies provide a "tandem plan," which combines two or more capital accumulation plans.