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Doing Bad vs Preventing Good
Last registered on July 29, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Doing Bad vs Preventing Good
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004494
Initial registration date
July 28, 2019
Last updated
July 29, 2019 10:08 AM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Cologne
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Cologne
PI Affiliation
University of Cologne
Additional Trial Information
Status
Withdrawn
Start date
2017-11-01
End date
2020-02-28
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In this project, we compare frequently used proxies for unethical behavior in the economics laboratory. Subjects in our experiment first face an individual moral decision and then a group moral decision that requires agreement of all group members. In both decision frameworks, subjects choose between monetarily dominated “ethical” options and monetarily beneficial but “unethical” options. Treatments vary if moral costs of the “unethical” option are introduced (i) by generating a donation to a negatively perceived charity or (ii) by preventing a donation to a positively perceived charity.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Engl, Florian, Bernd Irlenbusch and Maivand Sarin. 2019. "Doing Bad vs Preventing Good." AEA RCT Registry. July 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4494-1.0.
Former Citation
Engl, Florian, Bernd Irlenbusch and Maivand Sarin. 2019. "Doing Bad vs Preventing Good." AEA RCT Registry. July 29. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4494/history/50812.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
We run three treatments. Treatments vary the proxy for unethical behavior. Specifically, we compare donations to a negatively perceived organization, i.e. the National Rifle Association (NRA), to the prevention of donations to positively perceived organizations, i.e. Everytown for Gun Safety or Menschen für Menschen.

In the Control treatment, subjects can donate to the NRA. The NRA is an US non-profit organization that promotes gun ownership. The NRA invests substantial funds into lobbying against weapon control legislations, therefore, the NRA can be considered a political lobby organization. Donations to the NRA have been used as a proxy for unethical behavior in Ariely et al. (2009) and Kajackaite (2015). Instructions of the treatment contain following informational text about the NRA.

“For your information: The NRA is an influential US gun lobby association, which fights for the right of all US citizens to acquire, own, carry, share and use firearms. Therefore, the NRA rejects almost any form of legal weapon control. The NRA has approximately 5 million members in the US. The US is one of the world's leading countries for deaths by firearms.”

In Treatments A and B, we use the prevention of donations to positively perceived charities as a proxy for unethical behavior. The prevention of donations to positively perceived charities is a commonly used approach to measure unethical behavior in experimental economics. Implementation requires experimenters to either choose general donations to well respected charities, e.g. Red Cross as in DellaVigna and Pope (2018), or a purpose specific donations, e.g. funding meals for a children in need as in Irlenbusch and Saxler (2019) or measles vaccines in developing countries as in Kirchler et al. (2015). We use the former approach in Treatment A and the latter in Treatment B.

In Treatment A, we use the prevention of donations to Everytown for Gun Safety as a proxy for unethical behavior. Everytown is a US non-profit organization that is against unrestricted gun ownership and for legal weapon control. We choose Everytown in Treatment A because it can be regarded as the counterpart organization to the NRA. Both organization operate on the same political dimension, however, on opposite poles. Everytown invests substantial funds into lobbying for weapon control legislations, therefore, Everytown can also be considered a political lobby organization. Following Informational text about Everytown is held as similar as possible to the one for the NRA.

“For your information: Everytown is an influential US anti-gun lobby association, which fights against the right of US citizens to acquire, own, carry, transfer and use firearms. Therefore, Everytown supports legal weapon control. Everytown has approximately 5 million members in the US. The US is one of the world's leading countries for deaths by firearms.”

In Treatment B, we use the prevention of donations to Menschen für Menschen (MfM) as a proxy for unethical behavior. MfM is a German non-profit aid organization that operates in Ethiopia. Unlike the NRA and Everytown, MfM is not a political lobby organization. Furthermore, donations in Treatment B are purpose specific and fund eye surgeries in Ethiopia. One eye surgery costs 10 Euro and saves a patient with the disease trachoma in an advanced state from blindness. Instructions include following text with information about MfM and the diseases trachoma.

“For your information: Menschen für Menschen is an aid organization which implements long-term aid projects in Ethiopia. The donation will fund a € 10 worth of eye surgery in Ethiopia, which saves a patient with advanced trachoma disease from blindness. Trachoma is an eye disease caused by infection with Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria and the most common infectious cause of blindness. Due to trachoma, 1.9 million people suffer from visual impairment or blindness. Blindness from the disease is incurable.”

In Part I, treatments vary the organization that subjects can donate to, but do not alter the decision situation. The sole difference between Control and Treatment A/B is a rearrangement of option numbering (naming) and the connected amount of the donation to the organization. In Control, option 0 comes with a 0 Euro donation to the NRA, then donations increase with option numbering until a donation of 10 Euro is reached in option 10. In Treatment A/B option 0 comes with a 10 Euro donation to Everytown/MfM, then donations decrease with increasing option numbering until a donation of 0 Euro is reached in option 10. Subjects' payoff function is held constant over treatments. Subjects earn 1 Euro for a donation of 0 Euro to the organization, then their payoff increases in increments of 0.25 Euro until it reaches the maximum of 2.25 Euro for a donation of 5 Euro, and then it decreases in 0.25 Euro steps until it reaches 1 Euro for a donation of 0 Euro.

In Part II, treatments vary the way externalities are generated for the unethical outcome. In Control, group agreement on the ethical outcome generates 2 Euro for each group member and no donation to the NRA. Group agreement on the unethical outcome generates 8 Euro for each group member and the negative externality of a 8 Euro donation to the NRA. In case of disagreement, group members do not earn anything and there is no donation to the NRA. In Treatment A/B, group agreement on the ethical outcome generates 2 Euro for each group member and a 8/10 Euro donation to Everytown/MfM. Group agreement on the unethical outcome generates 8 Euro for each group member but prevents the 8/10 Euro donation to Everytown/MfM. In case of disagreement, group members do not earn anything and no donation is generated.

References
Ariely, D., A. Bracha, and S. Meier (2009): “Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially,” American Economic Review, 99, 544–555.

DellaVigna, S., & Pope, D. (2017). “What motivates effort? Evidence and expert forecasts.” The Review of Economic Studies, 85(2), 1029-1069.

Irlenbusch, B., & Saxler, D. J. (2019). „The role of social information, market framing, and diffusion of responsibility as determinants of socially responsible behavior.” Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 80, 141-161.

Kajackaite, A. (2015): “If I close my eyes, nobody will get hurt: The effect of ignorance on performance in a real-effort experiment,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 116, 518–524.

Kirchler, M., Huber, J., Stefan, M., & Sutter, M. (2015). “Market design and moral behavior.” Management Science, 62(9), 2615-2625.
Intervention Start Date
2019-07-29
Intervention End Date
2020-02-28
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Rates of coordination, rates of agreement on the unethical outcome, rates of agreement on the unethical outcome, rates of agreement on the unethical option conditional on reaching coordination
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
individual donations in Part I (used for classification of subjects into "ethical" and "unethical" types)
individual choice of ethical and unethical options in Part II, length of disagreement in Part II
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Our laboratory experiment consists of two parts. In each part, subjects take decisions that influence their own payoff and a donation to an organization. Depending on the treatment, the organization is either negatively or positively perceived. To ensure that all participants have a minimal knowledge of the organization, instructions include an informational text.

Part I uses an individual choice to elicit subjects’ views about the organization. Specifically, subjects can choose an amount— between zero and ten Euro—to donate to the organization. Subjects earn 1 Euro for a donation of 0 Euro to the organization, then their payoff increases in increments of 0.25 Euro until it reaches the maximum of 2.25 Euro for a donation of 5 Euro, and then it decreases in 0.25 Euro steps until it reaches 1 Euro for a donation of 0 Euro.

Part II uses a coordination game that is repeated for 20 periods in fixed groups of four players. By choosing one of two options, group members can either agree on an “unethical” outcome which generates a payoff of 8 Euro for each group member but comes with a negative externality or on an “ethical” outcome that generates a payoff of 2 Euro but no negative externality. If groups disagree, group members receive no payment.

After subjects make their choice, we elicit their beliefs about the behavior of the other group members in the current period. Subjects are asked to guess how many of their fellow group members chose the ethical and the unethical option, respectively. If their guess coincides with the actual frequency of choices, subjects earn 0.5 Euro. Otherwise they earn 0 Euro.

At the end of each period, subjects are informed about the individual choice of each of their fellow group members. To this end, each group member is assigned a letter, A, B, C, or D, which is then used to display the group members’ individual choices on the feedback screen.

After the main parts of the experiment, participants fill out a questionnaire which asks for their age, gender, whether they are students, whether they are studying at the Bachelor’s or Master’s level, their major, the semester they are in, and if they have any previous knowledge about the organization. In addition, we employ the preference panel developed in Falk et al. (2016) to elicit subjects’ self-reported risk, time, altruism, reciprocity, and trust preferences.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization by software ORSEE (Greiner, 2003, 2015)

Greiner, B. (2003): “An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments,” in Forschung und wissenschaftliches Rechnen 2003. GWD Bericht 62, ed. by K. Kremer and V. Macho, Go ̈ttingen: Ges. fu ̈r Wiss. Datenverarbeitung, 79–93.

Greiner, B. (2015): “Subject pool recruitment procedures: organizing experiments with ORSEE,” Journal of the Economic Science Association, 1, 114–125.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
see under Planned Number of Observations
Sample size: planned number of observations
Data for the Control treatment has already been collected in November and December 2017 for a different project. In this project, we will collect additional data for Treatments A and B. In Control, data from 172 individuals in 43 groups was collected. In Treatments A/B, we will approximately match the number of observations from the Control.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
see under Planned Number of Observations
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Ethics committee of the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Science, University of Cologne
IRB Approval Date
2019-07-16
IRB Approval Number
19013MS