Does cognitive load mediate the effect of poverty on economic decision-making?

Last registered on January 30, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Does cognitive load mediate the effect of poverty on economic decision-making?
Initial registration date
January 23, 2023

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 30, 2023, 1:16 AM EST

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


Primary Investigator

University of Kentucky

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Missouri, Columbia
PI Affiliation
Texas A&M University

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Being resource scarce often leads to behaviors that reinforce and prolong the status of scarcity. Prior studies explained such suboptimal behavior under the hypothesis that scarcity directly impedes individuals’ cognitive ability, leaving them with less capacity to make optimal economic decisions. To test the effects of cognitive load under states of scarcity and abundance, we conducted a controlled online experiment that separates scarcity (vs. abundance) and cognitive load (high vs. low) inducements using a real-incentivized 2 x 2 between-subject design. We evaluate the treatment effects on four economic decisions: propensity to cheat, risk preferences, time preferences, and monetary allocations.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Nayga, Rodolfo, Michelle Segovia and Shuoli Zhao. 2023. "Does cognitive load mediate the effect of poverty on economic decision-making?." AEA RCT Registry. January 30.
Experimental Details


Our primary aim is to test for separated and joint effects of scarcity status and cognitive load on subjects’ economic decision-making. Therefore, our interventions vary by scarcity vs. abundance as well as low vs. high cognitive load.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Under the combined inducements, we evaluate the treatment effects on four economic tasks: propensity to cheat, monetary allocation, risk preference, and time preference.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We conducted a 2 x 2 controlled experiment with Amazon M-Turk workers while firstly exogenously manipulating the inducement of scarcity and abundance, and then different levels of cognitive load. Specifically, Based on the between-subject design, subjects were randomly assigned to one of the four experimental conditions including 1) scarcity and low cognitive load, 2) scarcity and high cognitive load, 3) abundance and low cognitive load, and 4) abundance and high cognitive load.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization was done online by automated logic
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
280 Individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
70 individuals per treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Missouri-Columbia Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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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