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Blessing or Curse? The Effect of Luck on Dishonest Behavior
Last registered on March 15, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
Blessing or Curse? The Effect of Luck on Dishonest Behavior
Initial registration date
March 12, 2019
Last updated
March 15, 2019 11:07 AM EDT
Primary Investigator
University of Fribourg
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Innsbruck
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This project studies redistributive preferences under moral costs. Particularly, we seek to assess if people tend to sabotage lucky and dishonestly help unlucky fellows. Therefore, we conduct a laboratory experiment with two treatments -- the lottery and the tournament treatment. Subjects are either exposed to a pair where inequity was generated by a lottery or by an effort-based tournament and then have to report die roll outcomes that determine additional payments to the assigned loser and winner. These die rolls are not observable by the experimenter and subjects can, hence, manipulate the payoffs for each randomly assigned pair member without any personal financial incentive.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Matthewes, Elisa and Benjamin Pichl. 2019. "Blessing or Curse? The Effect of Luck on Dishonest Behavior." AEA RCT Registry. March 15. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3935-1.0.
Former Citation
Matthewes, Elisa, Elisa Matthewes and Benjamin Pichl. 2019. "Blessing or Curse? The Effect of Luck on Dishonest Behavior." AEA RCT Registry. March 15. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3935/history/43423.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
1) Transfer to low-income-type
2) Transfer to high-income-type
3) Difference between Transfers
4) Dishonesty
5) Difference to "fair" transfer
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
3) Difference between Transfers = Transfer to low-income-type - Transfer to high-income-type
4) Dishonesty = |Transfer - 35|
5) Difference to "fair" transfer = Transfer in Treatment Group - Transfer in Control Group
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We will generate four different types on MTurk: lottery loser, lottery winner, tournament loser and tournament winner. In the laboratory experiment, subjects are assigned either a lottery pair (winner and loser) or a tournament pair (winner and loser). In the Control Group, subjects are then asked to report transfers to each pair member. In the Treatment Group, subjects are asked to determine transfer payments based on unobservable die roll outcomes.
Experimental Design Details
We recruit a group of MTurk workers and pair two workers each, who exhibit inequity either based on a lottery or based on an effort-based tournament outcome (Slider task). Thus, we produce four different types: the lottery loser (LoLot), lottery winner (HiLot), tournament loser (LoTour) and tournament winner (HiTour). The income levels (low and high income) are constant across both treatments. Those workers, the Types, will only be of instrumental value. Another group of participants -- half the size of our MTurk Types -- will actually work as our subject pool in the laboratory experiment.

Each of our subjects in the laboratory experiment is assigned one pair from the Type Generation part. All subjects then learn about the types of their assigned participants, which yields two different treatments -- the lottery and the tournament treatment. The income generation procedure of their assigned pair is explained in detail. Our subjects will face an MPL task before being randomly assigned to the Control or the Treatment Group.

In our control group, we will study fairness views between inequalities due to luck and inequalities due to effort. With a spectator design, each subject is asked to set transfers for the low and high income type of their assigned MTurk workers. Each transfer has to be within the range of [10,60] ECU (experimental currency units) and the order of first reporting transfers to the low or the high type is randomized between the subjects. By doing so, we will elicit the mean transfer amounts that are commonly perceived as "fair" for all four types of MTurk workers.

Our Treatment Group instead cannot arbitrarily choose a transfer amount but has to report transfers determined by a given rule: Each subject receives a die, is instructed to privately roll this die ten times and report the summed up number of dots for two rounds (see Fischbacher & Föllmi-Heusi, 2013). In one round, the submitted sum of dots is explained to convert into a transfer payment for the assigned low-income type and in the other round it determines a transfer payment for the assigned high-income type. The order of first reporting the transfer to the low or high-income type is thereby randomized between the subjects. Since no direct verification of the truthful report of these outcome variables is possible, our subjects face the possibility of helping or harming their assigned pair members.
Randomization Method
Randomization by computer.
Randomization Unit
Experimental Sessions.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
13 experimental sessions.
Sample size: planned number of observations
312 (24 per session).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
192 subjects in treatment group (96 per treatment) and 120 subjects in control group (60 per treatment).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Board for Ethical Questions of the University of Innsbruck
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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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)