Targeting Goals

Last registered on March 06, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Targeting Goals
Initial registration date
February 23, 2024

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 06, 2024, 3:15 PM EST

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


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Primary Investigator

University of Cologne

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Cologne
PI Affiliation
University of Cologne
PI Affiliation
University of Cologne
PI Affiliation
Frankfurt School of Finance and Management

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial is based on or builds upon one or more prior RCTs.
A large literature in economics, management and psychology has shown that performance is affected by goals set by employers and that the relationship between the specific goal size and performance is inversely U-shaped. In this study, we ask the question whether and to what extent the goals can effectively be targeted to individual people based on their prior performance and, importantly, their personal traits (preferences, personality traits and beliefs).
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Opitz, Saskia et al. 2024. "Targeting Goals." AEA RCT Registry. March 06.
Experimental Details


Participants first fill out a survey on demographics, preferences, and personality traits and work on task. In a second part subjects are again invited to work on a real effort task. This time, a specific performance goal is randomly assigned to each subject and subjects receive a bonus when reaching the goal. This is a pre-registration of a pilot experiment.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcome variable is the number of points gained in the real-effort task. The aim of this study is to estimate Conditional Average Treatment Effects of variations in goal size based on prior performance and personal characteristics of the participants. We will use this to estimate (i) how the size of the performance-maximizing goal depends on prior performance and a person’s preferences and personality and (ii) whether performance can be increased by targeting goals to individuals based on their characteristics.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Enjoyment of the task.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The Prolific experiment will consist of two parts. In the first part, participants have to complete a survey, where information about participants’ demographics (age, gender, education, race), risk preferences, ambition, level of self-esteem, beliefs about their own performance, and Big-5 Personality traits will be collected. In addition, an open question (“If you think about yourself: Are you a person who is motivated by challenges or do too challenging tasks rather demotivate you? Please explain also why this is the case in your view.”) will be asked. After that, participants complete a real-effort task for 10 minutes with an opportunity to train themselves for 30 seconds before. They are not incentivized and receive only a participation fee for completing this part of the experiment.

The real-effort task follows DellaVigna and Pope (2018): Participants have to alternately press 'a' and 'b' buttons on their keyboards. For each correct sequence pressed, they get 1 point. All participants receive information about the number of gained points on their screen.
We invite participants again after approximately one week to participate in the second part of the experiment. We will only invite participants who have completed all the sections from the first part of the study. In the second part, they again have to do the same real-effort task for 10 minutes. However, before starting with the task, each of them is assigned with a goal, which is a number of points that they have to gain to receive a financial bonus. After finishing the real-effort task, participants fill out a short post-survey consisting of questions about their enjoyment of the task. At the end of the experiment, workers will be redirected to Prolific, and will receive the participation fees and bonuses (for those who reached the goal).
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
The goals are randomly assigned. The assignment follows a probability distribution is constructed as follows: We start with the performance distribution obtained in a study that used the same real-effort task (Opitz, Sliwka, Vogelsang, & Zimmermann, 2022). The range of the values from the previous study is split to quintiles. Participants are first randomly assigned to each quintile, and then receive a random target value drawn from the range of performance outcomes in the respective quintile. That is done for the purpose of having more observations in the range of performance likely to be achieved and less observations for extreme values (where likely either all subjects reach the target or no one is able to do).
Randomization Unit
Individual Subject
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
We invite 300 individual subjects to participate in the study as it is a pilot.
Sample size: planned number of observations
We invite 300 individual subjects to participate in the study as it is a pilot.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
All the subjects (300 participants) receive a goal treatment.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences (ERC-FMES) of University of Cologne
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number