Measuring the persistence, memory, and salience of state repression

Last registered on January 14, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Measuring the persistence, memory, and salience of state repression
Initial registration date
January 14, 2021

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
January 14, 2021, 11:55 AM EST

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



Primary Investigator

LMU Munich

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Over the last century, state repression has cost the lives of millions, and several more
have suffered from various forms of political persecution. Although the immediate effect of statesponsored
violence is to quell popular dissent, it is unclear how the experience of state repression
shapes political participation in society once the violence ends. In this proposal, we examine whether
changes in social structure and preferences that are visible in post-conflict democratic societies are
driven by the direct experience of repression and related long-term memory (persistence of
memory) or by constant reminders through political instrumentalization of these memories

Method: We design a (voluntary) survey questionnaire inquiring about household characteristics,
political preferences, and how politically informed the respondents are. The study is deeply linked,
and an analogue, to the existing nationwide celebration of the “National Day of Remembrance” on
May 20th by the Cambodian people. In this recurrent happening, speeches are held, public theaters
reenact the killings of the Khmer Rouge, and killing fields are visited (e.g. Choeung Ek).
In our survey, we view the National Day of Remembrance as an event that increases the “salience” of
the genocide. To mirror this underlying interpretation, a subset of participants will be showed the
following a slide highlighting the efforts of Cambodian people to document and inform people about
the genocide.

The participant is asked whether she feels comfortable in answering questions about her political
preference and is free to leave at any time.

We believe that our research has the potential to benefit society in numerous ways. It will map the
link between two important channels of history onto the present, memory and salience, and political
preferences. To the extent salience plays a role in affecting individuals’ beliefs, this has implications
for how public policy should commemorate society’s shared historical experiences.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Bühler, Mathias. 2021. "Measuring the persistence, memory, and salience of state repression." AEA RCT Registry. January 14.
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Experimental Details


To distinguish persistence from salience, we implement a novel survey design from the conflict literature that contains a module that actively reminds people of the genocide. While the priming module will be administered to all participants, we vary the timing of the priming module within the sequence of the questionnaire. The salience of the respondents memories is triggered when this `priming’ module appears early in the questionnaire in villages with a history of genocide. We measure the effect of persistent memories for individuals who respond to the priming questions at the end of the questionnaire. Contrasting these answers to their equivalent when the priming module is late in the questionnaire isolates the impact of salient memories. In the survey, we plan to randomize the order of the salience treatment and utilize preliminary work in Bühler and Madestam (2021) to identify exogenous variation in genocide intensity. The impact of persistent memories is measured by the historical intensity of state repression in the village of the respondent.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Political Preferences,
Local participation,
News acqusition,
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
All of our main outcomes are constructed from a series of questions detailed in the pre-analysis plan. We will create an index for each outcome to avoid multiple hypothesis testing and report the point estimates on each question in the appendix of the paper.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Female empowerment
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Again, this is an index created by various questions from the Survey. We will report the index, as well as answers to individual questions in the finalized draft

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We plan to have three stages in our survey. The first concerns the persistence of memories. Here we rely on 25 pre-selected communes with mass graves and 25 pre-selected communes without, in addition to an instrumental variables strategy outlined in Bühler and Madestam (2021).
The second concerns the salience of memories: Here, we randomize at the individual level 66% of our respondents into receiving a primer in which they should guess the number of bodies found in all discovered mass graves in their commune.
The third design stage asks whether providing unbiased information to the respondent can change their stated preferences. To do so, we will reveal the true number of massgraves to 50% of the 66% of respondents within the salience treatment.
The second and third treatment stage is randomized at the individual level resulting in 250 respondents in the Info+Salience+persistence treatment arm, 250 respondents in the Salience + persistence arm and 250 respondents in the persistence arm alone. This is symmetric in the non-persistence arm resulting in 1500 participants in total.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
At the individual level, by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
The persistence treatment is clustered at the commune level, thus 50. Yet, as the remaining stages are randomized at the individual level, we will cluster at the individual level for the second and thrid treatment arm.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Total: 1500 Persistence: 750 No-Persistence: 750 Within each of the above: 250 Salience & Information, 250 Salience, 250 Control
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
250 in all treatment arms:
250 no persistence, control
250 no persistence, Salience
250 no persistence, Salience + Information
250 with persistence, control
250 with persistence, Salience
250 with persistence, Salience + Information
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials