Financial decisions under cognitive load

Last registered on December 20, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Financial decisions under cognitive load
Initial registration date
April 15, 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
April 15, 2021, 6:18 AM EDT

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

Last updated
December 20, 2021, 1:32 PM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

Goethe University Frankfurt

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Toulouse School of Economics
PI Affiliation
Goethe University Frankfurt

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Despite the existence of experimental works studying the impact of cognitive load on individuals' risk attitudes and patience in intertemporal choices, no attention has been paid to the analysis of the effect of cognitive load on individual financial decisions. Yet, such decisions have grown progressively more complex and important, in view of financial innovation and increasing need to provide for retirement. The objective of this project is to contribute towards understanding whether cognitive load significantly influences financial decisions, with particular emphasis on how consumption, saving, and borrowing decisions are made over time; and how these influences are exacerbated or mitigated by individual characteristics, abilities, and attitudes. To do this, we run an incentivized online experiment to study individuals' consumption and borrowing decisions in the context of a life-cycle model. Starting from a benchmark with no cognitive load, we will be comparing how people’s financial behavior responds to being faced with cognitive load. As we want to quantify the importance of this load, we also introduce other two treatments that allow to compare the financial responses that arise from the presence of the load, with those that arise from a negative income shock, as well as those that arise from a combination of the load and the economic shock. Finally, by collecting information on individual characteristics (from socio-demographics to personality traits and cognitive abilities), the outcome of our planned project can shed light on what types of people are in greater need of help through information, advice, transfers and tax incentives, nudging and debt counselling, and suitable financial products.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Assenza, Tiziana, Alberto Cardaci and Michalis Haliassos. 2021. "Financial decisions under cognitive load." AEA RCT Registry. December 20.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The deviation of subjects' chosen consumption, savings and debt levels from the theoretical optimum implied by the model
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This is an incentivized online experiment with a control group and 3 treatment arms. In the control group, subjects make consumption decisions in the context of a life-cycle model. All other treatments mimic the control group, except that: T1 introduces a cognitive load; T2 introduces random negative income shocks; T3 introduces both the cognitive load and the random negative income shocks. In all treatments, subjects participate in a survey to collet information on individual characteristics.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Computer (online experiment)
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
2000 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
2000 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
500 individuals
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Gemeinsame Ethikkommission Wirtschaftswissenschaften
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Toulouse School of Economics Ethical Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

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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