Does the support for behavioral policies depend on why they work? Representative evidence on the relevance of psychological mechanisms
Last registered on May 13, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Does the support for behavioral policies depend on why they work? Representative evidence on the relevance of psychological mechanisms
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004163
Initial registration date
May 01, 2019
Last updated
May 13, 2019 11:38 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Ifo Institute
PI Affiliation
Ifo Institute
PI Affiliation
Ifo Institute
PI Affiliation
Ifo Institute
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2019-05-06
End date
2021-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In this project, we investigate whether people’s support of a behavioral policy depends on the psychological mechanism by which it affects behavior. We implement an online-survey experiment among a representative sample of adults aged 18 years and older in Germany. Each subject is randomly assigned to one of four experimental groups, and completes three consecutive stages. In stage 1 all subjects are asked whether they support training for the unemployed. In stage 2 all subjects are presented with a vignette of an unemployed individual, who is informed by letter that the Federal Employment Agency registered him for a training course and that he has two weeks to object to his registration, and is otherwise obliged to participate. Subjects also learn that he participates in the course. In treatment 1 no further information is added. Treatment 2 is identical to treatment one, except that subjects additionally learn that the unemployed individual did not read the letter and thus did not know that he could object to his registration. Treatment 3 is identical to treatment 1, except that subjects additionally learn that the unemployed individual believes that the course will help him to find a new job faster because the Federal Employment Agency registered him for the course. Treatment 4 is again identical to treatment 1, except that subjects additionally learn that the unemployed individual, because of the letter from the Federal Employment agency, feels pressured to participate in the course and does not dare to object to his registration. All subjects are then asked to report their level of agreement with respect to the described procedure. Stage 3 elicits subjects’ beliefs about whether the procedure (i) restricts the freedom of those that are unemployed, (ii) influences the beliefs about the effectiveness of the course for finding employment (iii) exerts social pressure on those that are unemployed and (iv) “makes the decision” for the unemployed who are indifferent.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Fischer, Mira et al. 2019. "Does the support for behavioral policies depend on why they work? Representative evidence on the relevance of psychological mechanisms ." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4163/history/46408
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
We investigate whether people’s support of a behavioral policy depends on the psychological mechanism by which it affects behavior. Subjects complete a questionnaire on (i) their support for further training for the unemployed (ii) their support for an automatic registration for further training for the unemployed with the possibility to opt out presented to them in a vignette, and (iii) their beliefs about the importance of different psychological mechanisms for the effectiveness of the behavioral policy. Depending on the treatment, subjects learn in the vignette that a unemployed individual participated in the training (i) with no further explanation given to the subjects, (ii) because he did not know that he could opt out, (iii) because he thought due to his registration that the training would help him to find a new job faster, or (iv) because he felt socially pressured to participate in the training.
The treatment variation allows us to study whether respondents’ beliefs about how a behavioral policy affects decision-making influences their support for this policy.
Intervention Start Date
2019-05-06
Intervention End Date
2019-06-13
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcome of interest is respondents’ support for the behavioral policy.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
In the questionnaire we elicit support for a behavioral policy that introduces automatic registration of unemployed individuals for training courses by default.

[Question wording:]
“Are you in favor of or against the Federal Employment Agency’s described practice to bindingly register the unemployed for further training courses if they do not object to the registration?”

[Answer categories:]
5-point scale: 1=”completely in favor”, 2=”somewhat in favor”, 3=”neither in favor nor against”, 4=”somewhat against”, 5=”completely against”
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Baseline level of support for training of the unemployed, beliefs about the psychological mechanisms by which the procedure affects the behavior of unemployed individuals
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Questionnaire on baseline support for training for the unemployed and beliefs about the psychological mechanisms by which the procedure affects the behavior of unemployed individuals


[Question wording:]
“Are you in favor of or against the participation of the unemployed in further training courses?”

[Answer categories:]
5-point scale: 1=”completely in favor”, 2=”somewhat in favor”, 3=”neither in favor nor against”, 4=”somewhat against”, 5=”completely against”

[Question wording:]
“How much do you agree with the following statements about the described practice?”

[Items:]
1. “The procedure restricts the unemployed’s freedom of decision.”
2. “Due to the procedure, the unemployed are more likely to believe that they will find a new job more quickly due to further training courses.”
3. “The procedure increases the social pressure on the unemployed.”
4. “The procedure makes a decision for the unemployed who are indifferent.”

[Explanation of items: 1: belief about restriction of freedom; 2: belief about the unemployed’s belief updating; 3: belief about social costs for the unemployed individual; 4: belief about outcome generation for indifferent unemployed individuals]

[Answer categories:]
5-point scale: 1=”completely agree”, 2=”somewhat agree”, 3=”neither agree nor disagree”, 4=”somewhat disagree”, 5=”completely disagree”
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We conduct the experiment in a sample of 4,000 adults aged 18 years and older. The survey is conducted in cooperation with a renowned German survey institute, KANTAR Public. The recruitment and polling is managed by KANTAR Public, who collect the data via an online platform. That is, our participants answer the survey questions autonomously on their own digital devices. Randomization is carried out by KANTAR Public at the individual level, using a computer.

Our experiment is structured as follows:
Respondents will be randomly assigned (between subject) to treatment 1 (control), treatment 2 (unintentionality), treatment 3 (belief updating), or treatment 4 (social costs)

Treatment 1:
Stage 1: Question on baseline level of support for training for the unemployed
Stage 2: Vignette to measure support for default rule, no information on decision-making by the unemployed is given
Stage 3: Questionnaire to measure beliefs about the psychological mechanisms relevant for decision to follow default

Treatment 2:
Stage 1: Question on baseline level of support for training for the unemployed
Stage 2: Vignette to measure support for default rule, information that the unemployed did not know of possibility to opt out
Stage 3: Questionnaire to measure beliefs about the psychological mechanisms relevant for decision to follow default

Treatment 3:
Stage 1: Question on baseline level of support for training for the unemployed
Stage 2: Vignette to measure support for default rule, information that the unemployed interprets the default as containing positive information about the effectiveness of the default option
Stage 3: Questionnaire to measure beliefs about the psychological mechanisms relevant for decision to follow default

Treatment 4:
Stage 1: Question on baseline level of support for training for the unemployed
Stage 2: Vignette to measure support for default rule, information that the unemployed feels socially pressured by the default
Stage 3: Questionnaire to measure beliefs about the psychological mechanisms relevant for decision to follow default
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is carried out by the survey company KANTAR Public, using a computer.
Randomization Unit
at the individual level
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
4,000
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,000
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
4,000 adults aged 18 years and older, approx. 1/4 (1000) will be assigned to each of the four treatment groups.
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