Experimental Design Details
See latest pdf document for change in design.
The following previous design description is included for completeness, but is *NOT* what we are currently planning on running.
In an online experiment with real effort tasks, we measure whether decisions for extra work are narrowly bracketed: whether people make decisions for extra work by thinking only about the direct disutility incurred from doing the extra work, or whether they also take into account the indirect effects of this extra work on other work they already have to complete. Specifically, subjects will be asked to complete a fixed and given amount of work and then be asked to do additional work.
The design is based on a 2x2 + 2 treatments (WTW stands for 'Willingness to Work'):
2 x 2 design
- NARROW (10 vs 20): Subjects are asked for their WTW for additional tasks when there are either 10 or 20 required tasks (between subjects treatments). They are not told whether these tasks are done before or after the main tasks. Their choice will be on the extra tasks only.
- BROAD (10 vs 20): Subjects are asked for their WTW for additional tasks when it is made clear that they are in addition to the (10 or 20) required tasks. Their choice will be on the total tasks.
- NARROW BEFORE: Subjects are asked for their WTW for additional tasks before doing some required tasks.
- NARROW AFTER: Subjects are asked for their WTW for additional tasks after doing some required tasks.
In all choices the choice to work extra time for the same piece-rate - the choice set is fixed, including no extra requirements or benefits from working fast or slow. A person who brackets narrowly may nonetheless act differently: they may not perceived the extra work differently regardless of this be done on top of different required work. Also, they may perceive the extra tasks differently if they are framed as having to be done before or after the required work. We consider as a control treatment the BROAD treatment, in which subjects are told that they choose between the required work (say 10 or 20 tasks) or the required work plus extra work. Thus is the most transparent choice, and the one that economic theory would say is 'the right' framing, under standard assumptions on utility over work.
If people bracket narrowly and find the first 10 tasks easier than the last 10 tasks (increasing marginal disutility), then our hypotheses are the following:
- NARROW BEFORE: A person who brackets narrowly should choose as if (or more closely towards) BEFORE ONLY, since they are thinking only of the 10 tasks, not about how it makes the other 10/20 tasks harder.
- NARROW AFTER: A person who brackets narrowly and thinks of doing work after 10/20 tasks should choose as they would in BROAD. However, it may be that the reminder of the required tasks is ignored and not integrated with this choice.
Overview of the main experiment:
• Experiment based on the transcription task similar to the one used by Augenblick and Rabin (2015).
• The experiment will be conducted online (via Lioness Lab, Arechar et al., 2018).
• PART 1 Mturkers are invited to participate to the first part of the experiment online.
o PHASE 1: Subjects practice with the transcription task.
o PHASE 2: Subjects are told that they are rewarded a fixed amount (participation fee), for performing a fixed required task.
o PHASE 3: Depending on treatment, they will be given the opportunity to choose YY extra tasks for a set of given piece-rates.
We elicit the willingness to work (WTW) with a slider to select the number of sequences to decode for a given piece rate payment (e.g. for $0.05/sequence how many sequences are you willing to decode?)
• PART 2
o PHASE 1: One of the choices made during the PHASE 3 will be selected randomly and implemented.
o PHASE 2: Subjects will work and will be rewarded according to the schedule.
o PHASE 3: At the end of the working part, subjects will be asked to answer to a series of incentivized questions, replicating Rabin and Weizsäcker (2009) with low stakes.
Without narrow bracketing, all choices except BEFORE ONLY should be identical. However, BEFORE ONLY and BROAD are identical, then our problem is that we have no power to identify narrow bracketing, as both narrow bracketing and broad bracketing give exactly the same answer: all answers should be the same, no matter whether subjects bracket broadly or narrowly. Why might this happen? It can happen if the first 10 tasks are exactly as painful as the next 10, and as the next 10, and so on. In that case narrow bracketing doesn't lead to a mistake. Another reason this can happen is that people *think* that 10 tasks are always equally painful (even if it turns out that they are not).
For this reason we run the following pilot to identify whether subjects think that the task gets harder (as well as whether they end up believing that). Note that what truly matters is the *beliefs* people have at the time they make the choices, not whether it actually ends up being more tedious.
In the pilot we ask them the same question as in the main study regarding whether they expect work to become more or less tedious (a question on a 10-point scale).
Arechar, A.A., Gächter, S., & Molleman, L. (2018). Conducting interactive experiments online. Experimental economics, 21(1), 99-131.
Augenblick, N., & Rabin, M. (2015). An experiment on time preference and misprediction in unpleasant tasks. The Review of Economic Studies.
Rabin, M., & Weizsäcker, G. (2009). Narrow bracketing and dominated choices. American Economic Review, 99(4), 1508-43.