An experiment on inequality and social comparison
Last registered on April 17, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
An experiment on inequality and social comparison
Initial registration date
January 13, 2019
Last updated
April 17, 2019 12:20 PM EDT

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Primary Investigator
Florida State University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Emory University
PI Affiliation
New York University NYC and Abu Dhabi
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Individuals are more likely to value skills that they are comparatively successful at (Festinger, 1954). At the same time, a person’s success on a particular domain is a consequence of his or her investment on that domain. This investment, in turn, can depend on how much the individual values that domain. That is, with social information, a rational choice must be based not only on the perceived decisions (on education, investment, entertainment, etc.) but also an unobservable selective valuation process in which one assigns a subjective value to the tasks/domains to optimize the observable choices. Studying how differences in values affect the behavior of an individual in tasks has important implications for our understanding of how individuals can optimize their choices and strategies in a society with competitions and social comparisons. In this study, we aim to design an innovative theory-driven experiment to investigate a new theory on social comparisons and estimate the effects of the selective valuation process on inequality, broadly defined. We will establish a new model to capture the characteristics of the selective valuation process in decision-making and derive theoretical predictions. We will then empirically explore the research questions in a controlled laboratory environment.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Morton, Rebecca, Kai Ou and Elizabeth Penn. 2019. "An experiment on inequality and social comparison." AEA RCT Registry. April 17.
Experimental Details
In a controlled laboratory environment, we will reveal other subjects' performance on a chosen task. Compared to the Baseline in which we do not reveal such information, subjects' behavior may be affected by the intervention.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Subjects' performance and effort.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Subjects' performance and effort will be measured by how many problems they solved correctly and how much time they spent to solve these problems.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
In the Baseline, we do not reveal information on other subjects' performance between Stage 1 and Stage 2. In the Treatment, we will reveal information on other subjects' performance between Stage 1 and Stage 2.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Subjects will be randomly assigned to the Baseline and Treatments, and depending on the treatment setup, subjects will be randomly assigned information on other subjects' performance.
Randomization Unit
Unit of randomization is the individual.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
500 undergraduate student subjects.
Sample size: planned number of observations
500 undergraduate student subjects.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 subjects for Baseline, 450 subjects for Treatment.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Florida State University IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
HSC No. 2018.23644