An online experiment on the role of psychological ownership in long-term project commitment

Last registered on July 19, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
An online experiment on the role of psychological ownership in long-term project commitment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0006803
Initial registration date
January 31, 2021
Last updated
July 19, 2021, 8:42 AM EDT

Locations

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Primary Investigator

Affiliation
LMU Munich, Munich Graduate School of Economics (MGSE)

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2021-02-15
End date
2021-10-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
It is a widespread assumption that participation, especially having invested personal resources and having contributed to the initial design phase of a project, fosters an increased feeling of ownership toward the project. This feeling of ownership, in turn, is assumed to contribute to longer-lasting project commitment. This assumption is crucial in supporting a range of policies in areas such as political theory (e.g. Dal Bó et al. 2010), management (e.g. Bartling et al. 2014, Mellizo et al. 2017) and marketing (e.g. Fuchs et al. 2010). It is also the fundamental premise of community-driven development, where beneficiaries of development projects are involved in the decision-making process and provide personal resources such as time, labor, and material (e.g. Casey et al. 2018, Aga et al. 2018). In this project, I run an online experiment to examine the relationship between participation (i.e. decision-power and initial effort investment), and continued investments into a project, with a particular focus on the mediating role of psychological ownership in this relationship.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Mang, Clarissa. 2021. "An online experiment on the role of psychological ownership in long-term project commitment." AEA RCT Registry. July 19. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.6803-1.1
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
This study is an online (laboratory) experiment with 4 experimental groups. In the experiment, all participants generate a donation to a charity. The different experimental groups are created based on a 2x2 treatment design: the first dimension varies whether participants have decision power over which charity receives their donation or if the charity is randomly assigned to them. The second treatment dimension varies whether participants receive the money to be donated as windfall gain or have to exert effort to earn it.
Intervention Start Date
2021-02-15
Intervention End Date
2021-02-28

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
- Willingness to pay (in terms of number of summation tasks willing to commit to)
- Preference for personally contributing to project maintenance (instead of delegating)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
- The willingness to pay is elicited by a Becker-DeGroot-Marschak mechanism and consists of a number between 0 and 30. Part of the donation is at risk of being destroyed unless the participant commits to solve some summation tasks, so the participant needs to state the number of tasks they are at maximum willing to commit to to save the donation.
- The preference for personally contributing to project maintenance (instead of delegating) is a number between 0 and 35 indicating the number of tasks the participant would rather do themselves instead of (costlessly) delegating them, given they are in a situation where 35 tasks have to be completed for sure to save the donation and they need to decide how many to do themselves and how many to delegate.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Psychological ownership score
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Psychological ownership is measured on a 4-item scale, each item being measured on a Likert scale from 1 to 7, with one item being scored in reverse (i.e. the score assigned is 8 minus the score selected); the score is constructed as the simple average of all of the 4-point scores and is taken from prior psychology literature.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
All participants generate a money amount that is to be donated to a charity. Based on the treatment group they are in, they either get to decide which charity the donation goes to or not and they either had to work for it or not. In each case, the same amount of money is generated. Subsequently, part of the donation is at risk of being destroyed. In order to prevent this from happening, a certain number of real effort tasks need to be solved. Participants need to make 2 decisions in a strategy-method approach: one, they need to state the maximum number of tasks they are willing to solve to prevent the destruction from occurring. Second, in a scenario where the number of tasks is fixed, they need to state how many tasks they want to do themselves and how many they want to delegate.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is performed on the individual level by assigning the treatment group by order of arrival of the participant. So the first participant to arrive is assigned to group 1, the second to group 2 and so on and starting again with group 1 after the fourth person arrived and was assigned to group 4 (out of 4). This is done in order to ensure balanced group sizes. The order of arrival is considered to be exogenous, first because participants are assigned to groups on a rolling basis, so it is not the case that early arrivals all end up in the same group. Second, participants arrive in a waiting room first, before the experiment is started. The order in which the link is then opened thus also largely depends on internet speed and how quickly they click "start", once the link is activated. Moreover, the treatment groups without decision power are oversampled to allow for the fact that only 90% of participants in those groups are part of the main sample. This is achieved by sorting - for every 18 participants who log in - 4 to each treatment with decision power and 5 to each treatment without decision power.
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
450 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
450 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
100 in arm 1 (decision power and effort invested)
100 in arm 2 (decision power and no effort invested)
125 in arm 3 (no decision power and effort invested)
125 in arm 4 (no decision power and no effort invested)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The minimum detectable effect size (with 80% power and α= 0.05) for the willingness to pay will be 2.16 tasks in relation to a baseline average of 16.5 tasks with a standard deviation of 5.43 (so an increase in WTP by around 13% or 0.4 standard deviations can be detected). For the number of tasks allocated to oneself, the minimum detectable effect size will be 2.41 tasks from a baseline of 19.5 tasks on average with a standard deviation of 6.05 (so an increase in tasks allocated to oneself of around 12% or 0.4 standard deviations can be detected).
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethikkommission der Volkswirtschaftlichen Fakultät an der LMU München (ethics committee of the economics department at the LMU Munich)
IRB Approval Date
2020-09-15
IRB Approval Number
Project 2020-08
Analysis Plan

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