Shutting down social preferences in the lab: an experimenter demand approach

Last registered on September 19, 2022

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Shutting down social preferences in the lab: an experimenter demand approach
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004647
Initial registration date
September 01, 2019

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
October 07, 2019, 9:44 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
September 19, 2022, 2:24 PM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Stockholm School of Economics

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
Completed
Start date
2019-09-02
End date
2020-12-31
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
Social preferences pose a challenge for any lab testing of theoretical predictions that are based on unobservable vNM utilities. Depending on the theory being tested, the unobservable mapping of laboratory payoffs to vNM utilities will, at best, introduce considerable noise, and at worst, bias the results. I investigate the efficacy of a very straightforward method for reducing the influence of social preferences on decision-making in the lab: instructing subjects to behave selfishly. The question is a simple one: does maximization of one's own payoff better predict subjects' behavior in experiments when they are explicitly instructed to achieve this goal?
To answer this, a first experiment will be conducted in which subjects play a one-shot prisoner's dilemma with one of three treatments: (1) social framing of actions, (2) neutral framing of actions, and (3) neutral framing of actions with explicit instructions to behave selfishly.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Semb, Joakim. 2022. "Shutting down social preferences in the lab: an experimenter demand approach." AEA RCT Registry. September 19. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4647-1.1
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2019-09-02
Intervention End Date
2019-09-03

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Degree of cooperation in PD
Beliefs about opponent cooperation in PD
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The primary outcomes are the degree of cooperation (defection) in actions as well as beliefs.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Survey questions designed to distinguish between types of motives (see separate file for minor hypotheses)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Pen-and-paper experiment in which subjects play a one-shot prisoner's dilemma with one of three treatments: (1) social framing of actions, (2) neutral framing of actions, and (3) neutral framing of actions with explicit instructions to behave selfishly (see enclosed instructions for exact phrasing). After choosing their own action, subjects state their beliefs about the distribution of actions among other participants. Payment is based on payoff in the PD and on the accuracy of beliefs.

Subjects also answer an exit survey composed mainly of likert scale items about motives behind action choice.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Envelopes ordered randomly
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
250-300 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
250-300 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
83-100 students in each treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Participant instructions

MD5: bcdb237b38c64f392ce4cfa701124a2e

SHA1: 30a6456b77d939e6e67a8e7bab350af1bdd05222

Uploaded At: September 01, 2019

Pre-Analysis Plan

MD5: 3a17ce8cd6321a653ff0680565b0b9b1

SHA1: 2179b7561a976304dc9ca67a722c98c13688010b

Uploaded At: September 01, 2019

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials