Religion and Motivated Cognition: When Ramadan Meets the College Entrance Exam

Last registered on April 08, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Religion and Motivated Cognition: When Ramadan Meets the College Entrance Exam
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005691
Initial registration date
April 07, 2020
Last updated
April 08, 2020, 1:26 PM EDT

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
UC Berkeley

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Princeton University
PI Affiliation
The University of Chicago

Additional Trial Information

Status
Completed
Start date
2018-05-04
End date
2018-05-05
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This paper reports a field experiment showing that motivated cognition makes people fail to learn from important objective information. We find that when Chinese Muslim students were scheduled to take the high-stakes College Entrance Exam during the month of Ramadan, they exhibited strong patterns of motivated cognition to underappreciate the cost of fasting on exam performance. When randomly granted explicit
exemptions issued by religious leaders to break the fast, their motivated beliefs were significantly alleviated, which enabled them to more accurately interpret how fasting would affect exam performance, and made them more willing to break the fast during the exam.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Wang, Shaoda, Ao Wang and Xiaoyang Ye. 2020. "Religion and Motivated Cognition: When Ramadan Meets the College Entrance Exam." AEA RCT Registry. April 08. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5691-1.1
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2018-05-04
Intervention End Date
2018-05-05

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We find that when Chinese Muslim
students were scheduled to take the high-stakes College Entrance Exam during the
month of Ramadan, they exhibited strong patterns of motivated cognition to underappreciate the cost of fasting on exam performance. When randomly granted explicit
exemptions issued by religious leaders to break the fast, their motivated beliefs were
significantly alleviated, which enabled them to more accurately interpret how fasting
would affect exam performance, and made them more willing to break the fast during
the exam.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We conduct a randomized controlled experiment in a large Muslim high school in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a Chinese province where 38% of the population is Muslim. By randomly providing the exemptions to some of the Muslim students who were about to take the CEE (during Ramadan) in 2018, we created experimental variation in the stringency of religious practices: some students believed that they had to fast during the exam, while other students thought that the fast could be delayed until after the exam. We then showed all students the same graph displaying what we found in the administrative data: taking the exam during Ramadan (fasting) has salient negative impacts on the exam performance of Muslim students. Using a visual-based survey module, we find that students who thought they have to fast during the exam in 2018 (control group) show patterns of motivated cognition: they distort the objective information in the graphs by underestimating the negative impacts of taking the exam during Ramadan, but as much as 50% of such cognitive bias is eliminated among the students who received an exemption (treatment group).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Random draw from a shuffled pool of files
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1 school with 24 classes
Sample size: planned number of observations
~600 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
533
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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

Request Information

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