Does being observed enhance self-control?
Last registered on May 13, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
Does being observed enhance self-control?
Initial registration date
March 27, 2019
Last updated
May 13, 2019 11:35 AM EDT

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Primary Investigator
Heidelberg University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Oslo
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Behavior in a group differs from behavior in solitude. What does it take to be a group? We study the weakest possible group effect, two persons who never meet and are anonymous to each other, but where one of them observes some of the actions of the other and where they have a joint interest as their payment depends on the performance of both. The question is whether the fact that the person is being observed, although anonymously, will affect their ability to self-control. Alternatively, the presence of a partner with shared interest, may affect self-control.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Brekke, Kjell Arne and Florian Diekert. 2019. "Does being observed enhance self-control? ." AEA RCT Registry. May 13.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The main outcome is a participant's remaining time budget after 4 rounds (=initial time budget minus what has been used in the first four rounds at the task, or for paying interest). This measure is the lower the more time a participant borrows. It is a measure of self-control where a higher value means better self-control.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
The following variables are included as control-variables in potential regressions on the main effect:

Total time budgeting: The remaining time budget after 12 rounds (=initial time budget minus what has been used in the twelve rounds of the game (at the task or for paying interest), the lower the more time a participant borrows, a negative value for the first player shows how much he/she borrowed from the second player, cannot be negative for second players).

Score; individual and pair: S_i The score of player i=1,2; number between 0 (when no answer to no question has been found) and 60 (when all answers to all questions have been found). S Score for the pair.



Whether the participant knows the game show Family Feud
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Participants are recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk to play a guessing game known from the TV-show Family Feud. The participants will guess the five most popular answers to questions such as “Name five things you take on a picnic”. Participants are matched in pairs and paid for each correct answer they, or their partner, give.

Initially, participants have 15 seconds per questions, but they can borrow time from future questions. This has a 100% interest rate, thus each second used takes two seconds from the time budget for future questions. The first player in the pair can further, when their time is exhausted, take time from their partner. The same 100% interest rate applies; each second they spend after their budget is exhausted will reduce the partner’s budget with two seconds.

Participants are randomly assigned to one of four treatments:

Pair x Observable (PO)
Pair x Non-observable (PNO)
Alone x Observable (AO)
Alone x Non-observable (ANO)

The control treatments differ along the dimensions observability and group composition. In all treatments, the first player can take time from the second player with a 100% interest rate. For group composition, the two alternatives are either Pair (P), where there are two players in a sequence, or Alone (A), where the second player is a computer that will score like a real player given the same amount of remaining time. For observability, the two alternatives are either Observable (O) or Non-observable (NO). In the observable treatments, the first player will be told that the second player will be informed about the first players borrowing behavior. The second player will be told about total borrowing in round 1-4 as well as total borrowing in all rounds, and how much time the player has taken from the second player. In the Alone x Observable (AO) treatment, this second player is not in the same pair, but a player who plays the same game after the first player has completed.

Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
1400 participants: 200 first players in each of the 4 treatments and 200 second players in the treatments PO, PNO, AO (no need to have second players in the ANO treatment).
Sample size: planned number of observations
800 participants as first players
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
200 first players in each of the four treatments
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents

MD5: a71effb1ad82daee0d47614c47d300e9

SHA1: 6184433b243ff396b989fca7a2f99a2799a291ce

Uploaded At: March 27, 2019


MD5: a5ed2d90dfd74a793377d06b43f33df1

SHA1: 6411220b11fc66a2d4dee6190b78c1580fc65455

Uploaded At: May 13, 2019