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A field experiment on the malleability of willingness to compete
Last registered on September 28, 2017


Trial Information
General Information
A field experiment on the malleability of willingness to compete
Initial registration date
January 11, 2017
Last updated
September 28, 2017 10:23 AM EDT
Primary Investigator
University of Groningen
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We do a field experiment in primary schools to investigate the malleability of willingness to compete and the gender gap therein.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Peter, Noemi. 2017. "A field experiment on the malleability of willingness to compete." AEA RCT Registry. September 28. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1898-3.0.
Former Citation
Peter, Noemi. 2017. "A field experiment on the malleability of willingness to compete." AEA RCT Registry. September 28. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1898/history/21890.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcomes of interest are the following: the gender difference in willingness to compete, and boys' willingness to compete and girls' willingness to compete.
The secondary variables of interest are the factors via which the effect on willingness to compete could operate. These are the performance measures in the piece rate and tournament round (see explanation below), risk attitudes, confidence and questions on children's aspirations.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
To measure willingness to compete, we follow the design of Niederle and Vesterlund (2007) closely (see Niederle, Muriel and Lise Vesterlund, 2007, “Do women shy away from competition? Do men compete too much?” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122(3): 1067-1101). Children perform a simple math task (adding up sets of 3 two-digit numbers) in three rounds. In Round 1 they do so under a piece-rate payment scheme. In Round 2 they do so under a tournament payment scheme, in which children's performance is compared to the performance of three other randomly selected children. The winner receives four times as much per correct answer as under the piece-rate scheme, while the losers do not receive anything. In Round 3, children can choose which of the two payment schemes they prefer. This choice is our measure of willingness to compete.
Explanation to the secondary variables of interest: the performance measures are the number of correctly solved exercises in Round 1, and the number of correctly solved exercises in Round 2. Risk attitudes are measured by an incentivized lottery choice question in which children make a single choice between a sure payoff and three lotteries of increasing expected payoff and variance (following Catherine C. Eckel and Philip J. Grossman, 2002, ‘‘Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes toward Financial Risk,’’ Evolution and Human Behavior, 23(4): 281–295), and we also ask a self-assessment question about risk attitudes in general (following Thomas Dohmen, Armin Falk, David Huffman, Uwe Sunde, Jurgen Schupp, and Gert G. Wagner, 2011, ‘‘Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants, and Behavioral Consequences,’’ Journal of the European Economic Association, 9:522–550). Confidence is measured as guessed rank in Round 2 (elicited in an incentivized way), and we also ask a self-assessment question from the children on how confident they are in general. The questions on children's aspirations are subjective and are related to the treatment instruments (we ask whether children want to be like those who were described in the treatment instruments).
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experiment will be conducted in primary schools. There will be two different treatment conditions, and within each classroom children will be randomized to the different conditions.
Experimental Design Details
The aim of the research is to examine whether gender roles in children's stories influence willingness to compete and the gender difference therein. Therefore children will be first randomly allocated into one of the two treatment conditions. About half of the children will read a story in which the girl is trying hard to surpass other children's performance and get a prize, and she eventually succeeds. The story also features a boy who is interested in the prize but he chooses not to compete for it eventually. In the other treatment children read the exact same story except that the names of the characters (and of course the corresponding pronouns) are reversed, and hence the gender roles are reversed.
After children read the stories, they have to answer some incentivized questions about it. Children know this in advance, so they have an incentive to read the stories carefully.
After they finished this reading task, they go on to the math tasks. In particular, they have to solve simple math exercises in three rounds, and one of the rounds will be randomly selected for payment. As mentioned by the explanation to the outcome variables, we follow the seminal paper of Niederle and Vesterlund (2007) closely in this part. In Round 1 there is a piece-rate payment scheme and in Round 2 there is a tournament payment scheme. After they are done with these rounds, children are asked to choose which type of payment scheme they would like to have in Round 3. This choice is our measure of willingness to compete. Then we let children do Round 3 as well.
After children finished Round 3, they receive a questionnaire. The questionnaire asks them about their confidence, risk attitudes, whether they would like to be like the boy in the story and like the girl in the story, basic demographic variables, family background, hobbies and whether they have any additional remarks.
At the end of the experiment, dice throws determine which of the math round will be payed and which options will be paid out by the risk question. Afterwards the experimenters leave the room and calculate the earnings elsewhere. Later they return and let children get their rewards based on their earnings. Since participants are primary school pupils of around age 10, children do not receive actual money but get toys instead. That is, they earn tokens with their answers and then they can buy various toys from the experimenters from their tokens, as if it was a marketplace.
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done by a deck of playing cards. That is, the treatment of each child will depend on the suit of the card that the child gets randomly.
Randomization Unit
Individuals are randomized to the different conditions within each classroom. Thus, in each classroom about half of the pupils will get Treatment A, and the others will get Treatment B.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
16 classrooms, but children in each classroom are randomized into two different treatment conditions, so the focus is on the number of observations, not the number of classrooms.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Approximately 350 pupils. A higher number not feasible (because of low willingness to participate among schools and a health shock that led to the dropout of a principal investigator)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
There will be approximately the same number of pupils in each treatment arm.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Ethical Committee of the Department of Child Development and Education of the University of Amsterdam
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)