Experimental Design Details
The non-routine team task is framed as a secret mission, in which participants need to gain access to the palace of the leader of a fictitious country (part I), find some secret information in the palace (part II), and escape (part III), all within 60 minutes.
As participants arrive in the laboratory, they are randomized into teams of three and then assigned to different rooms (with treatment having been randomized across rooms as well).
After receiving instructions from the experimenter, participants undergo a cognitive skill test at separated workstations (we will use Raven's (1998) progressive matrices). Subjects receive their own test scores as private information and are not informed about their team members' performance in the test.
Then, participants start working jointly at a table with a tablet computer placed in the middle. The tablet computer serves to transmit task solutions by participants but also displays hints for progressing in the task at pre-specified times. Therefore, all teams receive the exact same hints at the same time, a feature adapted from the underlying board game.
Subjects receive pen and paper, a decoding sheet, and each team member receives a text containing information about the layout of the leader's office in the palace. This text mostly contains useless but entertaining information, but also, and different for each team member, some information that helps to find the solution to part II.2. Participants are not told about the value of combining their personal information.
After subjects indicate to be ready to commence the experiment, a 60-minute clock is started on the tablet computer and they receive an envelope containing the materials for part I.1. These are a name tag with an empty field at the bottom titled `personal code', an invitation letter to the palace opening containing the information to 'bring your personal code', another decoding sheet displaying a matrix of numbers, several keys, and a white paper strip with small dots and stripes on both sides. The tablet computer asks subjects to enter their personal code, which can be found by combining the dots and stripes shown on both sides of the paper strip. The resulting pattern can then be decoded (using the decoding sheet distributed initially) to obtain the personal code.
After subjects have entered their personal code, they receive an envelope with the materials for part I.2. The materials consist of 5 different flags, an invitation card reminding subjects not to speak (if communication is prohibited in part I.2), a text of the country's national anthem, and a note from the country's leader, saying that the combination of the country's flag and the personal code will yield the solution to part I.2. To arrive at the solution, participants must study the anthem's text to identify the correct flag. They can then use the decoding sheet from part I.1 to identify the correct four-digit number needed to solve the quests in part I.2. Using the keys handed out in part I.1 (which bear single-digit numbers), subjects need to select the four keys (in the right order) on the tablet computer to end part I.
After they managed to do so, the experimenter distributes materials for part II.1. In part II.1, participants receive information cards for five different fictitious enemy countries (with a map of each country and some basic info such as GDP, the strength of armed forces, and other information), a solution sheet containing a matrix that will yield two of the four correct keys to terminate part II, and a speech by the leader describing the country he considers to be the greatest enemy (containing a reminder not to speak should verbal communication be prohibited in part II.1). Selecting the greatest enemy country can be achieved by combining clues from the speech with the information on the country information cards and then making use of the matrix on the solution sheet.
Verbal communication is randomly prohibited in either part I.2 or part II.1.
This ban is implemented by the experimenter under the threat of exclusion and the experimenter also announces as soon as communication possibilities are restored. In half of all sessions, the contents of part II.1 and part I.2 are exchanged to avoid order effects.
After part II.1 is completed, participants receive materials for part II.2.
These are a picture of the leader's office, as well as instructions to `count the golden eagles' displayed there, as well as a sheet translating Roman into Arabic numerals. Participants can simply search for all golden eagles in the picture, but they can also arrive at the solution by sharing the information they received prior to the experiment. Two of the three participants received information about the number of golden eagles in certain parts of the room at the beginning of the experiment, which combined yields the total. This number, translated into Roman numerals yields the last two keys, as all keys (in addition to single-digit Arabic numbers) also each bear a Roman numeral. Entering all four keys on the tablet computer ends part II.
For part III, subjects are asked to select a team member for an individual task requiring logical reasoning. They are not reminded of the Raven test results obtained before the experiment and are not made aware of a possible correlation between the ability to perform in the individual task of part III and this test. They may, however, themselves take the initiative and discuss the results if they so wish. After the team decided on a member, this member is moved to a secluded desk, where he/she receives materials and instructions. The individual task requires sorting 8 picture cards (with pictures on both sides) to be sorted into a 2 times 4 matrix based on a number of logical statements accompanying the instructions (e.g. `the green flower pot can never be next to the green portrait'). By combining all statements, only one possible solution for arranging the picture cards remains.
Meanwhile, the remaining two group members work on a variety of diverse tasks. They need to detect a pattern in a sequence of numbers and continue the sequence, find an object hidden in a stereoscopic image, arrange keys in a specific fashion so they form the shape of a number, and use a key to follow a drawn path on a paper slip to unveil some letters. The solutions to these four tasks yield the four keys to ending part III and thus the game, while the solution to the individual task done by the third team member yields the order in which the keys have to be entered.
After participants have entered the correct four keys (or if the 60 minutes have expired, whichever occurs first), the task ends.
Participants are then asked to fill in some questionnaires. The questionnaires include questions on why a specific person was chosen for the individual task in part III, the questions on leadership used in the framed field experiment, a rating of the statements regarding all ten dimensions used in a survey we previously conducted, as well as general demographics such as age and gender and experience with escape room (board) games. If participants were assigned to a bonus condition and managed to (did not manage to) complete the task within 45 minutes, they then receive the bonus in BGGain45 (hand the bonus back in BGLoss45). All participants also receive the participation fee and are subsequently dismissed from the laboratory.