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Effective Policy Communication: Target vs. Instrument
Last registered on October 15, 2020


Trial Information
General Information
Effective Policy Communication: Target vs. Instrument
Initial registration date
October 15, 2020
Last updated
October 15, 2020 12:30 PM EDT

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Primary Investigator
Boston College
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Communication targeting households and firms has become a stand-alone policy tool of many central banks. But which forms of communication, if any, can reach ordinary people and manage their economic expectations effectively? In this large-scale randomized control trial, we provide randomly three groups of a representative population of men in Finland with different forms of communication about the same policies that the European Central Bank (ECB) has implemented in April 2020 to reduce the negative shocks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The communication about the same policies comes from the same source and medium (the twitter account of the Governor of the Bank of Finland, Dr. Olli Rehn), but one group faces a form of target communication, which only discusses the final objective of the policy without discussing the legal instruments the ECB will use to reach such objective, and another group faces a form of instrument communication, which discusses the technical instruments the ECB uses and which form the policy. A control group of subjects faces a tweet discussing a period of economic crisis in Finnish history without any specific connection to the COVID-19 policies implemented by the ECB. Our trial aims to study the effects of different forms of policy communication on the average consumer as well as the heterogeneity of these effects across dimensions we observe in the data---cognitive abilities as a proxy for sophistication and prior income-change beliefs.

External Link(s)
Registration Citation
D'Acunto, Francesco and Michael Weber. 2020. "Effective Policy Communication: Target vs. Instrument." AEA RCT Registry. October 15. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6597-1.0.
Experimental Details
We propose a within-subject experimental design with three experimental arms: a control group, in which subjects read a tweet by Dr. Rehn referring to the economic crisis of Finland after the First World War and unrelated to current events and policies; a target-communication group, in which subjects read a tweet that discusses the objectives of the ECB's policies implemented in April 2020 to overcome the negative economic shock due to the COVID-19 crisis; an instrument-communication group, in which subjects read a tweet that discusses the legal instrument and the size of the PEPP program the ECB implemented in April 2020. We elicit subjects' beliefs about their households' income both before and after the experimental treatments are administered. To reduce the concern of demand effects, we elicit point estimates in the first instance and full probability distributions ("Manski question") after the treatment.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Change in numerical household income expectations
2. Change in trust towards the central bank and its policies
3. Change in qualitative household income expectations
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The design is a within-subject experimental design with 3 experimental arms: a control group, a treatment-communication group, and an instrument-communication group. We do not randomize or stratify any other dimensions.

The manipulation consists of showing subjects a tweet from Dr. Olli Rehn's twitter account that discusses a situation of economic crisis in the history of Finland (control group), the objectives of the ECB policies implemented to overcome the COVID-19-induced economic crisis, and the instruments (PEPP) implemented by the ECB to overcome the COVID-19-induced economic crisis. All tweets are true tweets from the official account of Dr. Rehn.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is performed by a computer at Statistics Finland after subjects are recruited for a survey experiment.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1700 in the control group, 1700 in the target-communication group, and 1700 in the target-communication group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Boston College IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number