Excuses and Social Image (Part 1: Expression of Stigmatized Views)

Last registered on October 23, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Excuses and Social Image (Part 1: Expression of Stigmatized Views)
Initial registration date
January 18, 2020

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
January 20, 2020, 5:10 PM EST

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

Last updated
October 23, 2020, 10:57 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

Harvard University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Bergen
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
University of Warwick

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We examine the role of third-order beliefs in shaping potentially stigmatized public behavior. We hypothesize that information, in addition to its persuasive effects, potentially also affects behavior by providing an "excuse" for engaging in xenophobic actions, leading to changes in equilibrium expression even among people who do not necessarily believe the information. Guided by a theoretical framework, we design an experiment to disentangle the effects of third-order beliefs from those of first- and second-order beliefs in influencing respondents' decisions to donate to an anti-immigrant organization.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Bursztyn, Leonardo et al. 2020. "Excuses and Social Image (Part 1: Expression of Stigmatized Views)." AEA RCT Registry. October 23. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5308-2.0
Sponsors & Partners

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Whether or not the respondent authorizes a donation to Fund the Wall, an anti immigrant organization (binary variable)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We recruit respondents through Lucid, a survey provider.
Experimental Design Details
We randomize respondents into one of three conditions: "excuse", "no excuse", and "control".

We provide respondents in the "excuse group" and the "no excuse group" with information about a recent study (Lott 2018) that finds that undocumented immigrants in Arizona commit crimes at substantially higher rates than comparable US citizens. We tell participants that they will have the opportunity to authorize a donation to Fund the Wall (www.fundthewall.com), an organization that supports the proposed US-Mexico border wall, and that their individual donation decision will be published on a website that we create (such that others from their city may see their decision). Participants in the "excuse" and "no excuse" groups are shown a screenshot of the website and see that the page contains information about the Lott study, allowing us to hold second-order beliefs (beliefs about what website visitors will know) constant. Participants in the control group see a screenshot of the website, but they do not see any information about the Lott study.

The key treatment varies the availability of an "excuse" for donating: that is, whether the website makes it clear that respondents knew about the Lott study prior to donating. Our main hypothesis is that when respondents know that website visitors will know that they were informed about the Lott study prior to donating (the "excuse group"), they are more likely to donate than when respondents believe that website visitors will believe that they were not informed about the Lott study prior to donating (the "no excuse group"). We also hypothesize that participants in the "excuse" group will be more likely to donate than participants in the control group.

We will then examine results separately by political orientation. We expect higher mean donation rates among Republicans than among Independents, and higher mean donation rates among Republican-leaning Independents than Democrat-leaning Independents. However, we may also find a stronger treatment effect on Independents, given that the relevant "audience" for their donation decision -- acquaintances and/or others whose opinion they care about -- may be less likely to approve of the donation decision. In contrast, Republicans may expect a larger share of their acquaintances to approve of the donation decision even in the absence of an excuse, which may generate a weaker treatment effect.

We will also examine heterogeneity by the 2016 Republican vote share of the respondent's county, though the direction of the heterogeneity is a priori ambiguous. On one hand, respondents who privately want to donate and who live in majority Democrat areas might have greater need for an excuse, given that a larger share of their audience might disapprove of the donation in the absence of an excuse. On the other hand, these same respondents may be those who are least sensitive to social image concerns surrounding their political views, given that they have chosen to live in areas where the majority of the population does not share their political affiliation; this may generate a weaker treatment effect.


Lott, John R., Undocumented Immigrants, U.S. Citizens, and Convicted Criminals in Arizona (February 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3099992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3099992
Randomization Method
Qualtrics will randomize respondents into one of the three conditions. We use the "Evenly Presents Elements" option in the Qualtrics Randomizer to secure equal group sizes.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1250 control condition, 1250 excuse condition, 1250 no excuse condition. To gain statistical precision, we also report some specifications in which we pool with pilot data (N=778, with 400 in the excuse condition and 378 in the no excuse condition). We also report the results from the replication experiment (N=701 in the excuse condition and 705 in the no excuse condition).

We ask our survey provider to restrict the survey to respondents who had not taken our pilot. To further ensure that our sample does not include repeat respondents, we also include a post-outcome question asking respondents whether they have taken a previous online survey that discussed the Lott study. We expect this number to be small and plan to exclude respondents who respond in the affirmative from our main specifications (though we will also report results with the entire sample).

Our survey uses Qualtrics' built-in feature to map respondents' IP to their city, which we then mention several times in the survey. This feature occasionally fails (typically when respondents are taking the survey from remote areas), resulting in no city being displayed. We will drop these respondents from all specifications.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
We have 80% power to detect an effect size of 0.056 percentage points at a critical threshold of alpha=0.05 when comparing any two conditions, assuming a baseline donation rate of 0.44.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Chicago Social and Behavioral Sciences IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information


Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials