Motivations for Conformity

Last registered on September 02, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Motivations for Conformity
Initial registration date
August 31, 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
September 02, 2021, 10:13 AM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

Xiamen University, School of Economics

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Individuals exhibit a preference for conformity in various domains, including effort provision (Bandiera, Barankay, and Rasul, 2010), charitable giving (Frey and Meier, 2004), energy consumption (Allcott, 2011), and so on. This preference, as an important behavioral motivator, has been widely used in the literature on nudging, whereby normative or descriptive information of an action may affect individual decision making. Theoretical studies commonly model the preference for conformity as concerns for social image (Bernheim, 1994; Benabou and Tirole, 2006) or difference from others (Akerlof, 1980; Jones, 1984). There are some essential questions remaining to be explored. Is this preference driven by intrinsic or instrumental motivation? If it is the latter case, is there any misperception on social norms toward disconformity? This trial aims at identifying and decomposing the motivators for conformity. In a multiple-stage experiment, subjects make binary decisions on charitable giving in three circumstances: (1) one-shot decision; (2) conditional on the proportion of choosing to donate in the one-shot decision; (3) under third-party punishment and conditional on the proportion of choosing to donate in the one-shot decision. We will also elicit subjects’ belief on third-party punishment.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Chen, Yiting. 2021. "Motivations for Conformity." AEA RCT Registry. September 02.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The proportion of subjects choosing to donate.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment has four stages. In Stage 1, subjects make one-shot decisions on whether to donate half of their payment to a charity. In Stage 2, subjects make a plan of decisions: whether to donate, conditional on the proportion of subjects choosing to donate in Stage 1. In Stage 3, subjects are randomly assigned two roles: first-party or third party. The first-party makes similar decisions as Stage 2, while the third-party makes a plan of decisions: whether and how much to punish the first-party if he/she chooses not to donate, conditional on the proportion of subjects choosing to donate in Stage 1. Preference for conformity predicts that individual willingness to donate increases with the aggregate willingness to donate. However, conformity in Stage 2 reveals the effect of the intrinsic motivation, compared with Stage 3 where conformity may be partly driven by afraid of punishment. In Stage 4, we elicit subjects’ belief in aggregate action of in Stage 1 and Stage 3, in order to investigate the potential misperception of social norms.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
randomization will be done through Qualtrics
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

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

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Perceived Social Norms: Elicitation and Decomposition
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


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