Decision-Making in Virtual Team Leadership: The Impact of Timing on Reward Distribution – An Online RCT Study

Last registered on December 05, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Decision-Making in Virtual Team Leadership: The Impact of Timing on Reward Distribution – An Online RCT Study
Initial registration date
November 25, 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
December 05, 2023, 4:25 AM EST

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


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Primary Investigator

School of Business, Aoyama Gakuin University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University
PI Affiliation
Faculty of Economics, Senshu University

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This study employs a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with scenario experiments to delve into the allocation of rewards by virtual team leaders. It investigates how leaders make decisions regarding the distribution of rewards among themselves and their team members, under different scenarios that revolve around when leaders decide on reward allocation and the information available to them.
In this experimental setup, participants are asked to imagine themselves as team leaders with the authority to determine how rewards are allocated within the team. The key question revolves around what percentage of the total team earnings leaders choose to allocate to themselves and what reasoning underlies their choices.
Furthermore, this research aims to shed light on how real-world leaders behave differently from the often observed "rational" dictators in simple games. It explores the expressions of traits like generosity and responsibility in leaders' decisions and seeks to identify the individual characteristics associated with such behaviors.
To accomplish this, an online survey methodology is employed, and the study also examines whether personality traits and gender play a role in influencing these allocation decisions.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Hattori, Keisuke, Keisaku Higashida and Kimiyuki Morita. 2023. "Decision-Making in Virtual Team Leadership: The Impact of Timing on Reward Distribution – An Online RCT Study." AEA RCT Registry. December 05.
Sponsors & Partners


Experimental Details


The intervention consists of assigning participants to one of four scenarios that simulate the decision-making process of virtual team leaders allocating rewards. The scenarios are: Pre-Project Decision, where leaders decide on the reward distribution before the project starts; Post-Project Uncertainty, where leaders decide after the project concludes without knowledge of the outcomes; Positive Outcome, where leaders are informed of high earnings before deciding; and Negative Outcome, where leaders are informed of low earnings before making their decisions.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome measures the percentage of total team earnings that participants, acting as virtual team leaders, allocate to themselves versus their team members in various scenarios. This assesses the leaders' decision-making patterns in reward distribution within virtual teams.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
This study examines how different scenarios influence virtual team leaders' decisions on reward allocation. It aims to understand the distribution strategies reflecting potential generosity and responsibility in leadership roles. Specifically:

H1 (Leaders Show Generosity): Leaders who can decide on the reward distribution before the project starts are hypothesized to allocate a smaller percentage of rewards to themselves, hence a larger share to their team members, compared to those making the decision post-project completion.

H2 (Leaders Show Responsibility): Leaders informed of poor project outcomes are hypothesized to allocate a smaller percentage of rewards to themselves, thus a larger share to their team members, relative to those informed of better outcomes.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary outcomes include the reasoning behind the reward allocation decisions made by participants and the examination of how individual characteristics, such as personality traits and gender, may interact with the decision-making process.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
The secondary outcomes aim to delve into the psychological and personal factors influencing the reward allocation process. This includes analyzing participants’ explanations for their decisions to uncover motivations such as fairness, generosity, or self-interest, and investigating the role of personality traits and gender in explaining variability in decision-making behavior.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The study employs a 4-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) to investigate reward allocation decisions among virtual team leaders. Participants are randomly assigned to one of four scenario-based interventions, exploring different contexts of reward distribution: Pre-Project Decision, Post-Project Uncertainty, Positive Outcome, and Negative Outcome. Responses on reward allocation percentages and underlying rationales will be collected and analyzed, with personal characteristics considered as control and interaction variables.
Please refer to the supporting documents provided in the 'Supporting Documents' section for detailed information on the experimental design and methodology.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
The survey company will employ a computer-generated randomization sequence to allocate registered users across Japan to one of the four different intervention sites. The experiment will be conducted under a double-blind condition, ensuring that both the participants and the researchers administering the experiment are unaware of the group assignments.
Randomization Unit
Individual participant
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
N/A (individual participants will be randomized across four distinct survey sites without the use of clusters).
Sample size: planned number of observations
For each of the four distinct scenario interventions, we will randomly assign 130 participants to each arm, ensuring an equal gender distribution. This allocation strategy applies to all treatment arms, resulting in a total of 520 participants across the four arms.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
130 individuals per arm, totaling 520 participants randomized equally across four intervention groups.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
This study incorporates two separate experiments: the first comparing Pre-Project Decision with Post-Project Uncertainty groups, and the second assessing Positive Outcome versus Negative Outcome groups. Each experiment independently employs a two-tailed t-test to compare outcome variables between the groups. The sample size calculation, based on a medium effect size (Cohen's d of 0.5), an alpha error (significance level) of 0.05, and a desired power of 0.95, estimates the need for approximately 105 participants per group. This leads to a total of about 210 participants for each experiment, and 420 participants for both experiments combined. However, beyond the primary comparison using t-tests, the study also intends to examine the interactions of individual characteristics with the treatment effects. This additional analysis necessitates a larger sample size to maintain statistical power and precision. The calculation for this aspect of the study, which considers the complexity and variability introduced by examining interactions, results in a total sample size of 520 participants. This increased sample size ensures that the study is adequately powered not only for the main effects analysis but also for the exploration of these interaction effects, thereby enhancing the comprehensiveness and depth of the research findings.
Supporting Documents and Materials


Document Name
Supporting Document
Document Type
Document Description
This supporting document includes the summary, study design, hypotheses, data analysis plan, study duration and recruitment, Incentives for Experimental Participants, Rationale for Sample Size Design, Implications, Research Ethics, and Questionnaire Details of the study.
Supporting Document

MD5: 2efda3ec83273d2596fa740e5f6c2c0d

SHA1: f9193091749bc0f622d65e079fd84a332385403e

Uploaded At: November 23, 2023


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Research Ethics Committee of Aoyama Gakuin University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number