Motivated Pessimism

Last registered on September 18, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Motivated Pessimism
Initial registration date
September 17, 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
September 18, 2020, 10:27 AM EDT

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


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Primary Investigator

University of Pittsburgh

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
I propose an experiment to elicit motivated pessimism about external factors and its effect on entry and effort in repeated rounds of a real-effort task. The task is a simple typing exercise in which effort is difficult to measure precisely and the production function relating the task to payoffs is partially stochastic. This experiment is built on a conceptual framework with three types of beliefs formed by an individual following an unexpected outcome: “personal accountability” beliefs which attribute outcomes to an individual’s own performance, “temporary external accountability” beliefs which attribute outcomes to temporary bouts of luck but do not change their beliefs about future outcomes, and “persistent external accountability” beliefs which attribute outcomes to external factors and expect those external factors to have a similar effect on subsequent stages of the same decision environment. "Persistent external accountability” beliefs disincentivize effort and induce premature exit.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Hyde, Kelly. 2020. "Motivated Pessimism." AEA RCT Registry. September 18.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Likelihood of pessimistic beliefs and willingness to engage in repeated stages of a real-effort task
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Intensity of effort in a real-effort task
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The study comprises three stages. In the first, participants will be asked to complete a simple typing task. At the end of the first round of the task, participants' beliefs about the task will be elicited. Information will then be revealed to participants, after which more beliefs will be elicited regarding the task. In the second stage, I will elicit participants' willingness to accept (WTA) to forego the second round of the task and any associated earnings. Participants who enter the third stage, based on the realization of their choice in the second stage, will complete another round of the task for payment.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization by computer (oTree)
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
200 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
200 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
100 individuals fixed piece rate, 100 individuals randomly assigned piece rate
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number