The Signals We Give: Gender, Feedback, and Competition

Last registered on December 07, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

The Signals We Give: Gender, Feedback, and Competition
Initial registration date
March 09, 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
March 26, 2020, 1:27 PM EDT

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

Last updated
December 07, 2020, 11:41 AM EST

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


Primary Investigator

York University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Portsmouth
PI Affiliation
University of East Anglia

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Women are underrepresented in leadership positions across many contexts in both private and public spheres. The proposed research programme aims to study one of the potential barriers to gender equality by examining the biases that managers hold when providing feedback to their employees. Biases in feedback communication can be detrimental to employees’ self-confidence, which may in turn reduce their willingness to compete for promotions or roles with better career prospects. Hence, understanding these biases and their impact on behaviour is an important first step to breaking down the barriers inhibiting women from taking up leadership roles. Using a controlled lab experiment, we will examine whether managers provide feedback differently to employees based on their gender. Our experimental design will allow us to examine the relationship between feedback provision and managers’ own incentives, and the impact that biased performance feedback may have on employees’ behaviour and outcomes.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Coutts, Alexander, Boon Han Koh and Zahra Murad. 2020. "The Signals We Give: Gender, Feedback, and Competition." AEA RCT Registry. December 07.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
For managers:

Beliefs about worker's rank (pre- and post-feedback).
Beliefs about worker's preference for piece-rate versus tournament.
Informativeness of feedback (exact reported rank, top/bottom half, no rank information) sent to worker.
Positivity of message sent to worker.

For workers:

Beliefs about own rank (pre- and post-feedback).
Preferences for piece-rate versus tournament.

Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
See detailed design below.
Experimental Design Details
The experimental design is conducted as follows.

Stage 1: We elicit participants’ characteristics using a questionnaire. Participants are divided into groups of two. One participant is randomly assigned the role of “Manager” and the other is assigned the role of “Worker”. Workers and Managers are randomly matched and perform a text-based chat interaction, where characteristics of the worker are revealed (gender priming).

Stage 2: Both Managers and Workers perform a task (adding sequences of 5 two-digit numbers) with piece-rate incentives.

Stage 3: Workers perform a task (adding sequences of 5 two-digit numbers) with tournament incentives, ranked against 5 other workers. Workers enter their beliefs about their rank. Simultaneously, Managers enter beliefs about the rank of the Worker they are matched with.

Stage 4: Workers choose to apply piece-rate or tournament incentives to past performance (in Stage 3) using a choice list with an ascending piece-rate payment and constant tournament payment. Simultaneously, Managers are asked to predict these choices of the Worker they are matched with.

Stage 5: Managers are given performance feedback about the Worker's ranking, from 1 to 6. This is a noisy signal which is correct 2/3 of the time and incorrect 1/3 of the time. Managers enter updated beliefs about the Worker's rank. Next Managers decide what information to reveal to the worker (exact reported rank, top/bottom half, no rank information), followed by selection of one of six pre-determined messages. Managers report the expected piece-rate vs. tournament choices of the Worker after receiving this feedback. Once Workers receive this feedback, Workers enter their updated belief about their rank, followed by the selecting from piece-rate vs. tournament choices, which will be applied to past performance (Stage 3) but with matching to 5 other new workers.

Randomization Method
Randomized matching of managers to male versus female workers. This is done by z-tree to ensure balanced matching within each session.
Randomization Unit
There are no treatments.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The data is not clustered.
Sample size: planned number of observations
240 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
There are no treatments.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of East Anglia School of Economics Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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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