Decision rights in moral dilemmas

Last registered on April 17, 2019


Trial Information

General Information

Decision rights in moral dilemmas
Initial registration date
January 24, 2017
Last updated
April 17, 2019, 5:12 AM EDT



Primary Investigator

University of Cologne

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Cologne

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This study deals with the question whether the possession of a decision right in a moral dilemma has an effect on subjects’ effort provision. Especially, in context of debates on empowering employees this question urges empirical evidence to derive practical implications for e.g. compliance management. From previous studies in experimental behavioral economics, we know that having the decision right over a morally neutral situation has a positive effect on effort provision (Fehr et al., 2013; Bartling et al., 2014).
This correlation has not been studied yet for situations of moral dilemmas, though. We think that it is crucial to investigate this additional dimension separately. This is because different strands of experimental research suggest a non-monotonic effect of the possession of a decision right in moral dilemma situations depending on the decision that was implemented. On the one hand, we know that people prefer to give their decision right away instead of making a beneficial but immoral decision on their own in order to not bear the full responsibility (Hamman et al. 2010; Bartling and Fischbacher, 2011). This could be an indication that in case of an immoral decision, the decision would not have a positive but rather negative effect on effort because individuals do not value it.
On the other hand, there is a growing body of evidence that pro-socially motivated agents provide more effort if they work for a pro-social mission (Cassar, 2016). Thus, we expect that executing the task in line with one’s own preference for truth-telling would increase performance, especially in case of the possession of the decision right which might be more valued in case of a moral decision.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Stein, Caroline and Anna Untertrifaller. 2019. "Decision rights in moral dilemmas ." AEA RCT Registry. April 17.
Former Citation
Stein, Caroline, Caroline Stein and Anna Untertrifaller. 2019. "Decision rights in moral dilemmas ." AEA RCT Registry. April 17.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our main dependent variable is player Bs’ effort provisions. We compare the situations when the implemented decision was made by player B itself to the situation when the other group member made the decision. A subsidiary variable of interest is the binary decision whether or not to lie to analyze the effect of role assignment.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We aim to run a laboratory experiment to find a possible correlation between decision rights and effort provision in moral dilemmas. In the experiment participants are grouped into pairs and get assigned either the role of player A or the role of player B. Player B is asked to do a real effort task. Both player A and player B make a decision which task player B shall do. They are then asked to report the chosen task and the respective piece-rate. Piece rates differ by task and both can thus lie about the piece-rate for player B’s real effort task. In 50% of the cases the decisions (task and reported piece-rate) of player A and in 50% of the cases the decisions of player B are implemented.
Before conducting the real effort task, Player B is informed about whether the task of player A or her chosen task will be implemented. In the former case B learns about whether A has overstated the piece-rate of the corresponding task. In this case B is forced to execute an immoral decision.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization is done in the laboratory. People are randomly allocated to roles/pairs and conditions (implementation of the decisions of player A or player B)
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Overall, we plan to run 10 sessions and to recruit approximately 320 subjects registered at the CLER (Cologne Laboratory for Economic Research) via ORSEE to the laboratory of the University of Cologne.
Sample size: planned number of observations
As we cluster on individual level, the number of clusters is the same as the number of observations: 320.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Our main dependent variable is the effort provision of player B in two different conditions: her decisions (80 observations) or the decisions of player A (80 observations) are implemented.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Add on to Pre Analysis Plan

MD5: 26f4764f8e8da853559d9496328690db

SHA1: f656728429ffb49a4d69968ac22121e8a1dd65f1

Uploaded At: April 17, 2019

Pre-analysis _ decision rights in moral dilemmas

MD5: 972c05c69d5a7ef4663ca7ee6b5a2550

SHA1: 9b787f46b33d364a20628b52332b50488c6b2381

Uploaded At: January 24, 2017


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
April 20, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
April 20, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
156 pairs (composed of 1 worker and one employer)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
312 subjects
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
68 Responsibility condition, 57 No Responsibility condition (due to design choice the remaining pairs were not exposed to ethical decision)
Data Publication

Data Publication

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Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials