Unarmed Peace and the Paradox of Power

Last registered on January 23, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Unarmed Peace and the Paradox of Power
Initial registration date
January 17, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 23, 2023, 6:51 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Innsbruck

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
PI Affiliation
University of Innsbruck

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Armed conflicts and wars do not only lead to extraordinary humanitarian suffering but also cause tremendous economic losses. In recent years, the economic literature has set out to investigates trade-offs between investment either in conflict technology or in welfare enhancing production, using the guns-versus-butter model. This model presents a framework where conflicting agents are able to appropriate the endogenously produced welfare of the opponent. As in other conflict models, social losses arise due to investments into conflict technology (e.g. arming). This study aims to experimentally test conditions under which (unarmed) peace can emerge in a guns-versus-butter setting. The design is based on the theoretical framework of Garfinkel & Syropoulos (2021), which introduces interesting extensions to the standard guns-versus-butter setting and allows distinguishing between arming and conflict initiation decisions. Building on this theory, we conduct two treatments to examine whether unequal resource-distributions between conflicting parties influence arming and conflict-initiation decisions. The main objective of this study is to experimentally test conditions under which peace can be sustained and welfare losses be reduced.
Our results will provide important insights to researchers and policy makers into conditions that have to be met in order to avoid conflicts and attain peace.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Baier, Alexandra, Thomas Rittmannsberger and Sophia Seelos. 2023. "Unarmed Peace and the Paradox of Power." AEA RCT Registry. January 23. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10588-1.0
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Experimental Details


We experimentally investigate conditions under which peace can be sustained using a student sample. In particular, we are interested whether (unarmed) peace can be sustained if (armed) conflicts are destructive. Furthermore, we study if unequal resource distributions disrupt peace and lead parties to engage in conflicts.

The experimental conditions differ in the distribution of resources between conflicting parties:

Condition 1: EQUAL: R1 = 100 Tokens; R2 = 100 Tokens
Condition 2: UNEQUAL: R1 = 80Tokens; R2 = 120Tokens

Our design allows us to experimentally investigate the effect of inequality on the emergence and stability of (unarmed) peace
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Conflict-starting decision
Investments into conflicts
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Belief about decision of other party
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
In the first period of the game, we elicit participants' beliefs about the other party's decision (Conflict-starting decision and investments into conflict).

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment will be conducted at the EconLab at the University of Innsbruck. Building on the model by Garfinkel and Syropoulos (2021), we employ an experiment with students in the role of conflicting parties who play the game for 7 rounds. Since we are interested in a one-period setting, we randomly re-match parties after each period, ensuring that the same pair of players will only meet once, therefore impeding reputation-building between players.

We will conduct two experimental conditions. We will run 2 sessions with 24 participants, grouped into clusters of 8 in EQUAL, and three sessions with 14 participants in UNEQUAL, grouped into one cluster.

Garfinkel, M. R. & Syropoulos, C. (2021). Self-enforcing peace agreements that preserve the status quo. Games and Economic Behavior, 130, 148–178.

Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is carried out in the experiment by a computer software.
Randomization Unit
Experimental Session
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
6 clusters ́a 8 individuals in EQUAL, 4 clusters ́a 14 individuals in UNEQUAL
Sample size: planned number of observations
104 participants
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We performed a power analysis based on the results of a similar experimental study (Kimbrough et al.,2014). In this study, the authors vary low and high endowment-inequality and introduce a device to avoid conflict. They find that the probability of conflict when inequality is low, is on average, 37% lower than when inequality is high (0.40 vs. 0.63, respectively). Assuming a similar effect in the probability of conflict across our treatments, we will need 80 subjects to ensure a power of at least 80% for a significance level of 5%. Reference: Kimbrough, E. O., Sheremeta, R. M., & Shields, T. W. (2014). When parity promotes peace: Resolving conflict between asymmetric agents. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 99, 96–108.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Unarmed peace and the paradox of power
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number