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Motivating Society's Best and Brightest: A Survey Experiment on the Flexibility of Goals
Last registered on October 26, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Motivating Society's Best and Brightest: A Survey Experiment on the Flexibility of Goals
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001684
Initial registration date
October 26, 2016
Last updated
October 26, 2016 8:56 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Erasmus University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2016-11-01
End date
2017-09-01
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We study goal setting and the extent to which goals should be flexible, using a large scale survey experiment involving approximately 2000 university students. Using a series of surveys we motivate students to set grade and non-grade related goals. In one treatment (T3) we explicitly mention that students can change their goals later. In the two other treatments (T1 and T2) we do not mention the option to change goals later. In the second survey, after students received information on their performance, we remind the students on their goals. In treatment 2 and 3, students are then asked whether they would like to change their goals (and why). We can then measure whether goals should be set flexibly, and whether this flexibility should come as a surprise. Since we have rich data on intermediate performance, final performance, and personal characteristics we are also able to estimate for whom goal setting works (in terms of present bias preferences and loss aversion, as is theoretically predicted to interact with the success of goal setting), and under which condition one should deviate from the initial goal. Furthermore, we can estimate the effects of goal flexibility on goal motivation.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
van Lent, Max. 2016. "Motivating Society's Best and Brightest: A Survey Experiment on the Flexibility of Goals." AEA RCT Registry. October 26. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1684-3.0.
Former Citation
van Lent, Max. 2016. "Motivating Society's Best and Brightest: A Survey Experiment on the Flexibility of Goals." AEA RCT Registry. October 26. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1684/history/11470.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
We randomly assign different survey versions to students, we have 1 control group and 3 treatment groups. All groups receive three surveys over a period of 8 weeks.

In survey one we elicit subjects' preferences and opinions in the control group. The treatment groups receive the same questions, and are in addition asked to set goals. We differentially elicit the goals across treatment groups. In one treatment (T3) we explicitly mention that students can change their goals later. In the two other treatments (T1 and T2) we do not mention the option to change goals later. After survey one, performance is measured by a midterm exam and subjects received their grade when they receive the second survey.

In survey two some preferences and opinions are elicited in the control and treatment groups. In the treatment groups we remind the students on their goals. In treatment 2 and 3, students are then asked whether they would like to change their goals (and why). We can then measure whether goals should be set flexibly, and whether this flexibility should come as a surprise. Since we have rich data on intermediate and final performance, and personal characteristics we are also able to estimate for whom goal setting works (in terms of present bias preferences and loss aversion, as is theoretically predicted to interact with the success of goal setting), and under which condition one should deviate from the initial goal.

In survey three we elicit some preferences and behavior of students which we can use in order to learn to understand the effects (flexible) goals have on performance and motivation.
Intervention Start Date
2016-11-01
Intervention End Date
2017-09-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our main variables of interest are: study performance, commitment/motivation to reach the goal(s), intrinsic motivation for the course, and decision whether to alter the goal(s).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Students receive a link to the survey via email. We randomize survey versions based on tutorial groups that students are in, i.e. all students within one tutorial group receive the same survey. Tutorial teachers are instructed to motivate the students of their tutorial groups to fill out the surveys on their smartphones during class. The first survey will be filled out during the second tutorial of the students, the second survey will be filled out during the first tutorial after the first midterm exam, and the third and last survey will be filled out during the first tutorial after the second and last midterm exam.
The control group receives surveys in which we elicit their preferences, e.g. time preferences, competition preferences, motivation, etc.
The treatment groups receive the same survey questions as the control group, but in addition are motivated to set goals. In treatment 1 students are asked to set a goal in survey one regarding a grade they want to obtain, and other course/study related goals. In treatment 3 students are also asked to set goals but are in addition reminded that during survey 2 they will have the opportunity to adjust their goal if they want.
In survey 2 the control groups are again only asked baseline questions. Treatment 1 students in addition are reminded of the goal they set before. In treatment 2 and 3 students are told that they can change their goals if they want to, this comes as a surprise for students in treatment 2, but not for students in treatment 3.
In survey 3 we ask students about study related outcomes, motivations, and preferences in all groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in the office by a computer program.
Randomization Unit
Unit of randomization is the tutorial group (i.e.small scale teaching groups with 25-35 students per group). Students are randomly assigned to these tutorial groups for most of the sample. For some groups, students can self-select. Where this is the case we mention this explicitly.
I stratified the randomization on study program and teaching assistant.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
approximately 75
Sample size: planned number of observations
approximately 2000
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
treatments will be balanced, 25% of clusters in control group and in each of the 3 treatments.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Education Management Office, Erasmus School of Economics
IRB Approval Date
2016-09-05
IRB Approval Number
/
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS