A Flag to Wave: Status-Seeking Behavior in Groups

Last registered on March 10, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

A Flag to Wave: Status-Seeking Behavior in Groups
Initial registration date
February 27, 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
March 10, 2023, 2:54 PM EST

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



Primary Investigator

Max-Planck-Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This study focuses on so called status-seeking behavior, characterized as behavior that maximizes the position in a non-monetary social hierarchy. Previous studies find that individuals have a fundamental intrinsic desire for social status and are willing to spend considerable resources (such as effort or money) in the competition for social status (Kosfeld, Neckermann, 2011; Gill et al., 2019; Hett et al. 2020). While status-seeking behavior is well-documented in a broad range of contexts where social status is assigned on the individual level, status-seeking behavior where social status is assigned to the group level has received far less attention.

The study design seeks to tackle two motivations why one could expect a change in prevalence and intensity of status-seeking behavior when social status is assigned to the group level and not on the individual level. First of all, group-structures and their inherently connected social identities might be inducing additional incentives for individuals to seek status in order to derive positive self-esteem from the group's status. This concern for group status might be of different quality than the concern for individual status, that might vary by the strength of identification with the in-group/out-group. Similarly, individual's status-seeking behavior in groups might be fostered by the group's inherent decision-making processes. For this, consider, e.g., situations where the concern for high social status is in conflict with the concern for a positive self-image. Status-seeking behavior in the form of unethical behavior is usually seen as immoral and, thus, might harm the individual's self-image. However, certain group decision-making processes have been found to induce a lack of feeling pivotal or responsible for the group decision (Falk et al., 2020). Thus, deciding within groups instead of as an isolated individual can provide excuses to behave immorally and such moral wiggle rooms might allow individuals within groups to break the mentioned trade-off between self-image and status concerns. In sum, this study seeks to investigate the effect of social identity and the trade-off between self-image and status concerns on status-seeking behavior.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Schmidt, Stefan. 2023. "A Flag to Wave: Status-Seeking Behavior in Groups." AEA RCT Registry. March 10. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.10988-1.0
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Status-seeking behavior in the form of effort provision and social behavior towards competitors
- Effort provision is measured by the amount of solved real-effort tasks.
- Social Behavior is measured by the (directed) assignment of tickets in the allocation task towards competitors. Social Behavior can take the form of assigning green tickets (supporting out-groups; pro-social behavior) or red tickets (sabotaging out-groups; anti-social behavior) to competing out-groups. The analysis will consider social behavior as the sum of both (assignment of tickets in general) and pro- & anti-social behavior (assignment of green & red tickets) in separation.

For the outcomes above, the analysis aims to scrutinize intensive/extensive margins and the relation to rank-feedback across rounds.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
- Comparison of primary outcomes in situations with and without a status ranking
- WTP for status (following Hett et al. (2020))
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Design - Main part: Subjects take part in a non-monetary status contest. Across several rounds subjects are able to collect points for their in-group by solving real-effort tasks. In the end of each round, achieved points are aggregated on the group level. The more points a group has achieved, the higher the chances to achieve a high rank in the status ranking. Also, subjects can engage in costly and anonymous social behavior towards all competitors (out-groups) in an allocation task. This gives them the option to increase (pro-social) or decrease (anti-social) the competing out-groups' sum of achieved points. Performance in the RETs and pro-/anti-social behavior in the allocation task are measured as the main outcomes of interest.

Treatments: The design varies two central aspects - social identity and the perceived level of individual responsibility. The "SI" treatment aims to enhance social identity concerns. Before entering the main part of the experiment subjects take part in a social-identity manipulation (building on Chen and Li (2009)). The RDM treatment aims to induce a reduced level of feeling pivotal in a group decision (building on Falk et al. (2020); Bauer et al. (2018)).
Experimental Design Details

Randomization Method
Subjects randomly show up for a given treatment
Randomization Unit
Experimental Sessions - Each session has 1-2 matching groups while each matching group consists of 15 subjects (all matching groups in a given session are assigned to the same treatment)
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
24 matching groups
Sample size: planned number of observations
360 subjects
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
90 subjects (6 matching groups)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethics Council of the Max Planck Society
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
2018_3 / 2021_36


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

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Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials