Individual vs group decision-making in the presence of (un)certain norms

Last registered on December 13, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Individual vs group decision-making in the presence of (un)certain norms
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002636
Initial registration date
December 12, 2017

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 13, 2017, 4:08 PM EST

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

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Mannheim

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Cologne

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2017-12-12
End date
2018-02-28
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Recent literature suggests that group decisions differ from individual decisions (e.g., Feri et al., 2010; Charness and Sutter, 2012). One reason for this pattern is that also social aspects within the group play a role, due to e.g. people hiding behind a group decision or their social image concerns. A different strand of literature considers the role of social norms for economic behavior. This literature shows that social norms matter for individual behavior in many spheres, including charitable giving, tax evasion and dishonesty (e.g., Frey and Meier, 2004; Hallsworth et al. 2017; Pruckner and Sausgruber, 2013). It further suggests that people are particularly prone to react to (information about) norms in presence of uncertainty about the norm (Feldhaus et al. forthcoming).

The aim of our project is to combine these strands of literature and to study the role of (un)certainty about social norms for individual vs group decision-making. In particular, we impose the following research questions: Does the effect of social norms differ between individual and group decisions? Does this depend on the degree of uncertainty about the norm? These questions so far remain unanswered in the literature, despite their relevance: many economic decisions are made by small groups or teams rather than individuals; examples include boards in corporations, government coalitions, or families. Furthermore, social norms are often ambiguous such that it is not perfectly clear what one ‘ought’ to do in a particular context. This makes it relevant to learn whether and how social norms affect individual vs group decisions and whether this is also related to the degree of uncertainty about the norm.

We use a laboratory experiment to shed light on our research questions. The essentials of the experimental design are as follows: we have a fully crossed 2x2 between-subjects design with individual vs group decisions and unambiguous salient vs uncertain norms. The decision problem is embedded in a standard dictator-game set up where the shared amount is our outcome variable.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Doerrenberg, Philipp and Christoph Feldhaus. 2017. "Individual vs group decision-making in the presence of (un)certain norms." AEA RCT Registry. December 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2636
Former Citation
Doerrenberg, Philipp and Christoph Feldhaus. 2017. "Individual vs group decision-making in the presence of (un)certain norms." AEA RCT Registry. December 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2636/history/23972
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
We use a laboratory experiment to shed light on our research questions. The essentials of the experimental design are as follows: we have a fully crossed 2x2 between-subjects design with individual vs group decisions and unambiguous salient vs uncertain norms. The decision problem is embedded in a standard dictator-game set up where the shared amount is our outcome variable. More details below under "Experimental Design".
Intervention Start Date
2017-12-12
Intervention End Date
2017-12-21

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Amount and/or share which is taken from recipient
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We use a laboratory experiment to shed light on our research questions. The essentials of the experimental design are as follows: we have a fully crossed 2x2 between-subjects design with individual vs group decisions and unambiguous salient vs uncertain norms. The decision problem is embedded in a standard dictator-game set up where the shared amount is our outcome variable. We have the following four experimental cells/treatment arms:

(i) Individuals decide in the presence of a clear social norm
(ii) Individiduals decide in the presence of uncertainty about the the social norm
(i) Groups decide in the presence of a clear social norm
(ii) Groups decide in the presence of uncertainty about the the social norm

Groups consist of two participants. We implement a period of five minutes during which group members can communicate via group-chat to coordinate on a common decision; if members choose different amounts, no one gets a payment (see also Kocher et al. forthcoming). The individual decisions are implemented as a standard dictator game. Importantly, to minimize differences between treatment variations, also individuals can make their final decision only after five minutes.

The second dimension that we vary is the type of norm that we induce exogenously. In cells with uncertain social norms, we aim to install a situation where it is less clear to participants if it is the “right thing” to give to the recipient. To achieve this goal, the recipient is an unnamed "social club". We do not provide any specifics about the club that will receive the money, but we provide subjects with a proad definition of "social clubs", which highlights that there exist many different clubs with different aims and fields of activity; as a result there is uncertainty if the recipient is deserving or not.

In cells with a salient and clear social norm, we aim to install a situation in which it is clear that the recipient is deserving and that it is the “right thing” to give. To achieve this goal, the recipient is a well-established "social club" with a charity subjective; the "Cologne Association for Children with Cancer". We provide subjects with a description of the association, which highlights its deserving character. The underlying rationale for this manipulation of the ambiguity of the social norm is based on established findings in the literature suggesting that people are more willing to give when the recipient is deserving whereas the opposite is found in case she seems undeserving, rendering a difference in the degree of uncertainty with respect to the giving norm (e.g. Eckel and Grossmann, 1996).

In follow-up experiments, we might add additional variations. For example: degree of anonymity in the groups, level of information in the individual decisions (which we take from the chat protocols in the group decisions in the initital experiments, "good" vs "bad" recipients, the role of leaders in the groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
randomization done by computer program
Randomization Unit
Treatments with individual decisions: individual participants
Treatments with group decisions: individuals are randomly assigned to groups
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The initial experiment will have 184 independent observations (46 per cell)

(Treatments with individual decisions: each subject represents one independent observation;
Treatments with group decisions: each group of two individuals represents one independent observation)
Sample size: planned number of observations
The initial experiment will have 276 experimental participants (92 in each cell with group decisions; 46 in each cell with individual decisions)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
(i) Individuals decide in the presence of a clear social norm: 46 subjects = 46 independent observations
(ii) Individiduals decide in the presence of uncertainty about the the social norm: 46 subjects = 46 independent observations
(i) Groups decide in the presence of a clear social norm: 92 subjects = 46 independent observations
(ii) Groups decide in the presence of uncertainty about the the social norm: 92 subjects = 46 independent observations
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information

Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
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