Experimental Design Details
The first part of the experiment is adapted from (Ball, Eckel, Zame, 2001). Its purpose is to test the role that entitlement has in encouraging oppressive behaviour in the later stages of the game.
In the ‘Random’ treatment, participants are assigned types (1 or 2) at random and are informed of their type (but not what types signify until later in the experiment).
In the ‘Random_Reinforced’ treatment, participants are assigned types (Star or No Star) at random and are informed of their type (but not what types signify until later in the experiment). After participants are informed of their type assignment, an award ceremony is held in which Star participants are called to the front of the laboratory, given a star sticker to wear for the duration of the session and are congratulated by ‘No Star’ participants for their newfound status via a round of applause. Additionally, researchers give preference to ‘Star’ participants where applicable: Instructions are given to Stars first, experimenters are more attentive to questions from Stars, and instructions reflect a clearer difference in status between groups.
Subjects in the ‘Earned_Reinforced’ treatment are assigned types (Star or No Star) based on the outcome of a real effort task. Participants are told that ‘Top performers’ have been assigned to be ‘Star’ types and that the other participants are assigned to be ‘No star’ types. After participants are informed of their type assignment, an award ceremony is held in which Star participants are called to the front of the laboratory, given a star sticker to wear for the duration of the session and are congratulated by ‘No Star’ participants for their superior scores and resulting status via a round of applause. Additionally, researchers give preference to ‘Star’ participants where applicable: Instructions are given to Stars first, experimenters are more attentive to questions from Stars, and instructions reflect a clearer difference in status between groups.
The second part of the experiment is adapted from Berg et al. 1995, commonly known as the trust game. A facet of oppression that is worthy of study is its implications for intergroup relations. As a result, we conduct a trust game before and after the ‘oppression’ stage of the game. In the trust game, participants are randomly assigned to a pair. In each pair, one participant will be the sender and the remaining participant will be the receiver. Each participant begins with 20 ECU. The sender chooses how many of their 20 ECU to send to the receiver (in multiples of 4 ECU). Any amount sent to the receiver is multiplied by three by the experimenters. The amount sent is considered a measure of trust. The receiver than gets to choose how much of the tripled amount plus their starting 20 ECU to send back to the sender. This is considered a measure of trustworthiness. To elicit a measure of trust for each participant, we ask participant’s to make decisions in both roles (sender and receiver). This employs the strategy method in which participants are asked to provide a response to every possible scenario they could face. At the end of the experiment, it is randomly determined which participant’s decision in each pair will be used in each role. The treatments vary whether the identity of the each participant’s counterpart (Star/Type 1 vs. No star/Type2) is revealed (specific) or not (generalized) prior to making decisions. In the specific treatment, the identity of participant’s partner in the trust game is held constant across decisions (i.e. sender/receiver) and parts (i.e.2/5). This treatment variation allows us to separate out the generalized and group specific components of changes in trust.
Stage 3: Lopsided public goods game
The purpose of the third stage is to introduce participants to the oppressive environment prior to giving one type the opportunity to oppress the other type. The game is an adaption of the classic VCM mechanism in which players must divide an endowment, e, between their private account which provides a return of 1 for every unit of the endowment invested and the public account which is multiplied by M and split evenly among group members. In our setting, participants are placed into groups of 5 (composed of 2 Star/Type 1 participants and 3 No Star/ Type 2 participants) and remain in the same group for five rounds. Each round, participants must choose whether to keep their 20 ECUs tokens in their private account or to invest them in the public account. Any token placed in the public account is multiplied by 2 (MPCR=0.4). However, unlike the standard VCM the public account is not paid out evenly. Each member of group A obtains R_A% of the public account while group B members only obtain R_B% (R_A= 0.37; R_B= 0.09 in both treatments). The rates were chosen to maximize earnings for No Star/Type 2 participants conditional on removing conditional cooperation as a viable profit-maximizing strategy. After each round, participants get to review the contribution decisions of their entire group and their total earnings before the start of the next round.
Stage 4: Oppression Game
In this stage of this experiment, participants play the Lopsided public goods game with punishment. However, unlike the standard VCM with punishment, only the Star/Type 1 participants have the opportunity to punish and only No Star/Type 2 participants are capable of being punished. This stage is identical to 3 except that after each participant makes their contribution decision, the Star/Type 1 participants get to review each participant’s contribution and decide whether or not to punish any of the No Star/Type 2 participants. To do so, they can choose to assign any number of punishment points to each of the No star/Type 2 members (conditional on not ending with negative earnings). For each punishment point assigned to a participant, the assigner’s income for that round is reduced by 1 ECU while the assignee’s income for the round is reduced by 10%. Of note, although each assigner can only assign a maximum of 10 points to any No Star/Type 2 participant, we allow participants to be assigned more than 10 punishment points in total. In this case (i.e. the sum of punishment points > 10), the assignee still earns 0 ECU for that round but the assigner’s still pay for all of the points they have assigned.
To study how the oppression game affects trust, we repeat the trust game from stage 2. Of note, we maintain the information given to participants about their partner (i.e. if they were not told the group affiliation of their match in stage 2 they will not be told in stage 5) and the group identity of the partner in the group-specific treatment (i.e. participants informed they are matched with a Star/Type 1 participant in Stage 2 will also be matched with a Star/Type 1 participant in Stage 5).
After the conclusion of the decision making portion of the experiment, we ask participants to fill out a short survey while payments are being determined. The survey includes:
Immigration to the UK
Political ideology (general, not party specific)
Beliefs about purpose of experiment and feelings over the course of the study (open-ended)
What did you think the purpose of this study was?
Please describe your feelings during the experiment:
Is there anything else you would like to say about your experience during today’s experiment
Degree of attachment to type
Happiness/comfortability with type
Willingness to interact with types in the future
Rating of appropriateness of actions by different types
Questions about societal structure:
Social Dominance Orientation