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The endogeneity of moral assessments
Last registered on May 29, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
The endogeneity of moral assessments
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005942
Initial registration date
May 29, 2020
Last updated
May 29, 2020 3:36 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
ifo Institute
PI Affiliation
ifo Institute
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2020-06-03
End date
2021-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In this project, we investigate the extent to which people manipulate their views on morality in a self-serving way. We implement an online experiment among a representative sample of adults aged between 18 and 69 years in Germany. Each subject is randomly assigned to one of four experimental groups, and completes four consecutive stages. In stage 1 of treatment 1, the subject divides a fixed monetary endowment between herself and a charity which supports children with low educational success. In stage 2, the subject is asked whether she considers it a moral obligation to support children with low educational success. In stage 3, we elicit the subject’s belief about other respondents’ moral assessment and incentivize correct beliefs. In stage 4, we again elicit moral assessment as in stage 2, and pay an incentive if the respondent gives the modal answer among all other respondents. Treatment 2 is identical except for the fact that the allocation task in stage 1 is between other survey participants (instead of the subject herself) and the charity. By comparing responses in stages 2 to 4 between treatments 1 and 2, we assess whether moral assessments and beliefs change to justify previous selfish choices. Treatment 3 is identical to treatment 1 except that there is no allocation decision in stage 1. Instead, subjects are simply informed that they receive an extra payment. Comparing stages 2 to 4 between treatment 1 and treatment 3 allows us to test for endowment effects. Treatment 4 is identical to treatment 1, except that the allocation task is performed in stage 4 instead of stage 1. Comparing allocation decisions between treatment 1 and 4 allow us to investigate the extent to which allocation decisions are affected by preceding (moral) introspection. At the same time, responses in stages 1 to 3 of treatment 3 provide a benchmark for moral assessments which is uncontaminated by preceding allocation decisions.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Grewenig, Elisabeth, Philipp Lergetporer and Katharina Werner. 2020. "The endogeneity of moral assessments." AEA RCT Registry. May 29. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5942-1.0.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
We investigate whether people manipulate moral assessments to justify self-serving behavior. Subjects complete three questions (one unincentivized, two incentivized) on the morality and fairness of supporting children with low educational success. Depending on the treatment (treatment 1 or treatment 2), subjects play one of two versions of a dictator game prior to answering the questions. The receiver in the dictator game is a charity supporting children with low educational success, and the two treatments differ in the extent to which the dictator game allows selfish allocations. The design enables us to study the endogeneity of morality views and beliefs with respect to previous actions. In treatment 3, subjects do not take an allocation decision in stage 1, but they are rather informed that they receive an extra payment. Comparing treatments 1 and 3 allows us to assess the presence of endowment effects. In a fourth treatment, subjects first complete the questions and only then play the dictator game where they allocate an endowment between themselves and the charity. This treatment allows us to study the reverse channel, namely the endogeneity of dictator-game giving with respect to prior (moral) introspection.
Intervention Start Date
2020-06-03
Intervention End Date
2020-06-17
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcomes of interest are subjects’ moral assessments.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Three questions on morality. In the analysis, we plan to investigate treatment effects on the three questions on morality separately, and on an index that contains to all three questions.


Question 1:
[Question wording:]
“To what extent do you agree to the following statements on the educational success of children?
“It is our moral obligation to support children with low educational success.””

[Answer categories:]
5-point scale: 1=”completely agree”, 2=”somewhat agree”, 3=”neither agree nor disagree”, 4=”somewhat disagree”, 5=”completely disagree”

Question 2:
[Question wording:]
“In this question, you now have the opportunity to earn an additional payment of 50 Euro Cents by making a correct estimate.
To determine whether your answer to this question is approximately correct, we will compare your answers with the answers of the German population from another recent representative survey of adults in Germany.

What do you think is the percentage of the adult population in Germany that answers the question shown (in grey) with “completely agree” or “somewhat agree”?

[Show question of stage 1 here]

[Answer categories:]
Open field + “percent of Germans answer the question with “completely agree” or “somewhat agree”.”

Question 3:
[Question wording:]
“Now you have again the opportunity to earn an additional payment of 50 Euro Cents by providing a correct answer.
To determine whether your answer to this question is approximately correct, we will compare your answer with the answer of other participants in the survey. If your answer matches the most frequently given answer of the other participants, you will receive the additional payment. Important: The same rules apply to the other participants; they also have to guess what the most common answer is.
“It is our moral obligation to support children with low educational success.””

[Answer categories:]
5-point scale: 1=”completely agree”, 2=”somewhat agree”, 3=”neither agree nor disagree”, 4=”somewhat disagree”, 5=”completely disagree”
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Dictator-game behavior.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Allocation of 60 Euro Cents between oneself (treatments 1 and 4) or other survey participants (treatment 2) and a charity supporting children with low educational success.

[Answer category]

O 60 Cents for [recipient] / 0 for the charity
O 50 / 10
O 40 / 20
O 30 / 30
O 20 / 40
O 10 / 50
O 0 Cents for [recipient] / 60 for the charity”
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We conduct the experiment in a sample of 4,000 adults aged between 18 and 69 years. The survey is conducted in cooperation with the survey institute responi. The recruitment and polling is managed by respondi, who collect the data via an online platform. That is, our participants answer the survey questions autonomously on their own digital devices. Randomization is carried out by respondi at the individual level, using a computer.

Our experiment is structured as follows:
Respondents will be randomly assigned (between subject) to treatment 1 (p=1/4), treatment 2 (p=1/4), treatment 3 (p=1/4), or treatment 4 (p=1/4).


Treatment 1:
Stage 1: Dictator game (oneself versus charity).
Stage 2: Question on morality.
Stage 3: Beliefs about others’ moral assessment.
Stage 4: Question on morality with incentives to provide modal answer.

Treatment 2:
Stage 1: Dictator game (other participants versus charity).
Stage 2: Question on morality.
Stage 3: Beliefs about others’ moral assessment.
Stage 4: Question on morality with incentives to provide modal answer.

Treatment 3:
Stage 1: Information about additional endowment (no allocation decision).
Stage 2: Question on morality.
Stage 3: Beliefs about others’ moral assessment.
Stage 4: Question on morality with incentives to provide modal answer.

Treatment 4:
Stage 1: Question on morality.
Stage 2: Beliefs about others’ moral assessment.
Stage 3: Question on morality with incentives to provide modal answer.
Stage 4: Dictator game (oneself versus charity).
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is carried out by the survey company respondi, using a computer.
Randomization Unit
at the individual level
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
4,000 individuals (adults aged between 18 and 69 years)
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,000 individuals (adults aged between 18 and 69 years)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
4,000, 1/4 (app. 1000) will be assigned to each of the four treatment groups.
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