The Influence of Stress and Failure on Economic Decision Making: An Online Experiment

Last registered on June 02, 2020

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
The Influence of Stress and Failure on Economic Decision Making: An Online Experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005946
Initial registration date
June 02, 2020
Last updated
June 02, 2020, 1:34 PM EDT

Locations

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Bristol

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Pennsylvania State University

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2020-06-03
End date
2020-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In the proposed study, we aim to distinguish the individual and combined influences of acute stress, failure and success on economic decision making using a behavioral online experiment. We propose to study a range of decisions that are commonly studied in economics and have been shown to be vulnerable to behavioral biases. Specifically, we will focus on the following elements of economic decisions: (1) intertemporal substitution, (2) risk taking, (3) altruistic behaviors and (4) effort choices.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Vecchi, Martina and Nicolai Vitt. 2020. "The Influence of Stress and Failure on Economic Decision Making: An Online Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. June 02. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5946-1.0
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2020-06-03
Intervention End Date
2020-07-31

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1) Altruism task: donation to charity (pooled estimation)
2) Risk taking task: indifference point
3) Intertemporal substitution task: quasi-hyperbolic model parameters (present bias beta and long-term discount rate delta)
4) Effort task: number of completed sliders
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
3) The quasi-hyperbolic model parameters will be calculated for each participant based on the indifference points in the two blocks of intertemporal substitution choices.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
5) Altruism task: donations to the individual four charities (separately)
6) Altruism task: average donations across all four charities
7) Risk taking task: indicator variable for inconsistent choices
8) Intertemporal substitution task: indifference points (separately for the two choice blocks)
9) Intertemporal substitution task: model-free measure of present bias
10) Intertemporal substitution task: indicator variable for inconsistent choices
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
9) The model-free measure of present bias will be calculated as the difference between the indifference points in the t=3 vs t=6 and the t=0 vs t=3 choice blocks.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
In the proposed study, we aim to distinguish the individual and combined influences of acute stress, failure and success on economic decision making using a behavioral online experiment.
Experimental Design Details
Participants of the online experiment are asked to complete two experimental sessions, at least one week apart. During both sessions they complete four types of economic decision making tasks: (1) decisions on altruistic behaviors, (2) choices under risk, (3) intertemporal substitution choices, and (4) effort choices. Using a 2x3 experimental design, the decision environment is exogenously varied between participants as well as between the first and second sessions completed by each participant.

First, participants are assigned to complete an incentivized task aimed at inducing mild stress, either at the beginning of the first or of the second session they complete. This first experimental treatment introduces exogenous variation in the acute stress levels during the two sessions.

The incentive structure for the stress task involves a deduction from participants’ pay-off if they perform below an unknown threshold. With the second experimental treatment we vary the threshold level faced and the provision of feedback about participants’ performance relative to the threshold. Specifically, participants may receive either no feedback, feedback with a low threshold level (success condition) or feedback with a high threshold level (failure condition) prior to the economic decision making tasks in the second session they attend. This second experimental treatment introduces exogenous variation in perceived success or failure during the second session.

This experimental design allows us to compare economic decision outcomes in different decision environments, both between different participants and within the same participant across the two sessions. During the first session, participants will be making decisions either under acute stress or under control conditions. During the second session, participants will again be making decisions either under acute stress or under control conditions, additionally their decision environment is influenced by perceived success, perceived failure or neither.

A number of manipulation checks will allow us to confirm the influence of our experimental treatments. Participants’ perceptions of the task’s stressfulness and the self-reported state anxiety at different points during both sessions provide evidence on the psychological impact of the stress task. Participants’ perceived failure and their performance expectations after receiving (no) feedback allow us to assess the effectiveness of the failure and success conditions.
Randomization Method
Randomization is done using the online platform hosting the experiment sessions (Qualtrics).
Randomization Unit
Randomization is done at the participant level.
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
300-400 participants
Sample size: planned number of observations
300-400 participants
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50-65 participants
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
0.17 - 0.19 standard deviations for the impact of stress, of 0.30 - 0.34 standard deviations for the impact of failure, 0.41 - 0.47 standard deviations for the interaction of stress and failure.
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
The Pennsylvania State University, Office for Research Protections
IRB Approval Date
2020-04-22
IRB Approval Number
STUDY00014345
Analysis Plan

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Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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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