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Motivating students with happy endings: effect of hopeful role model stories on primary and secondary school pupils in Naples.
Last registered on May 03, 2021


Trial Information
General Information
Motivating students with happy endings: effect of hopeful role model stories on primary and secondary school pupils in Naples.
Initial registration date
May 03, 2021
Last updated
May 03, 2021 12:25 PM EDT

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Primary Investigator
LEAP, Bocconi University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
LEAP, Bocconi University
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Motivation, aspirations and self-esteem have been found to be important determinants of academic performance and, subsequently, of labour market outcomes. Students who do not believe in their ability to succeed may exert little effort, display lower cognitive skills or interact differently with their peers, severely hampering their final achievements. Interventions featuring positive role models have been found effective in raising student's aspirations and, eventually, their academic achievements, and movies conveying hopeful messages are specifically effective on the most disadvantaged students. In this experiment, we test the effect of a short motivational video, where a role model describes their difficult initial condition and their happy ending, on primary and secondary school students' outcomes such as effort, cognitive abilities, prosocial behavior, optimism, and aspirations. Additionally, we test if the gender of the role model matters for the impact, and specifically if the effects are larger for students watching a video with a gender-concordant role model. The experiment is set in one school in Naples, Italy, and involves 400 students of low socio-economic background. All students will be randomized in three treatment arms: students in the first treatment arm will watch a video where a role model of their same gender describe how, starting from a situation of difficulty, s/he managed to succeed in life by finding and pursuing his/her passions. Students in the second treatment arm are shown a similar motivational video featuring a role model of the opposite gender of the respondent. Students in the control group will all watch a video where a gender-concordant role model thanks them for their time in answering to the subsequent survey.

External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Dimastrochicco, Raffaella and Selene Ghisolfi. 2021. "Motivating students with happy endings: effect of hopeful role model stories on primary and secondary school pupils in Naples.." AEA RCT Registry. May 03. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7628-1.0.
Experimental Details
The experiment is meant to capture the effect of a motivational video on elementary and middle school students in Naples, Italy. The intervention consists of one 30 second "role model" video, randomly chosen between 4 videos recorded. Each video features one role model only, which speaks directly to the student: in the Control video, the role model merely thanks the student for the participation in the survey, while in the Treatment video the role model describes how, starting from a situation of difficulty, they managed to succeed in life by finding and pursuing their passions.
The role models are one young man and one young woman from Naples who migrated in Italy from other countries. We chose them to be as similar as possible to the target students, as most students in the study are children of immigrant families. All videos are made by the role models using their phones, following a prepared script for comparability. We therefore use 4 videos: two Treatment videos, one made by the female and one by the male role model, and two Control videos, one made by the female and one by the male role model. Which video is shown to each students is randomly chosen as explained below.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcomes are student's effort, cognitive ability, expectations of own performance relative to peers, trust and altruism toward peers, aspirations regarding schooling and future jobs, confidence and self-esteem, and academic performance.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
- Effort, measured by the ability in solving a maze (student’s questionnaire)
- Cognitive abilities, measured by ability in completing raven matrix (student’s questionnaire)
- Self-esteem: expectations about own performance with respect to the class (student’s questionnaire)
- Relationship with classmates (student’s questionnaire)
- Altruism toward classmates, measured through a dictator game (student’s questionnaire)
- Trust in classmates, measured through a trust game (student’s questionnaire)
- Aspirations regarding high school and future job (student’s questionnaire)
- Confidence in shaping one’s own life (student’s questionnaire), including the following variables:
- Importance of resources to obtain one’s own goals
• Ability
• Motivation
• Help from friends
• Help from teachers
- Obstacles in obtaining one’s own goals
• Lack of money
• Ideas of family regarding the future of the student
• Extra-curricular activities
• Dislike towards academic subjects
• Friends
- Academic performance (administrative data)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The study is set in one school of Naples. The school has been chosen as it is located in a disadvantaged area and has many students with low socio economic background. All 460 students in the school will be asked to participate in the study. All consenting students will be randomized with equal probabilities in one of three treatment groups: the Control group in which each student will be shown the Control video featuring the role model of their own gender, and two Treatment groups: the same-gender treatment group, where the students will see the treatment video made by the role model of their own gender, and the different-gender treatment group, where the students will see the treatment video made by the role model of a different gender.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
The randomization is done in the office using a computer and the program Stata. The students are pre-randomized into treatment groups.
Randomization Unit
individual randomization
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
460 students
Sample size: planned number of observations
460 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
150 students in the control group, 155 students in the same-gender Treatment, 155 in the different-gender Treatment.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Bocconi Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number