How Do Philosophers Understand Exploitation?

Last registered on May 18, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

How Do Philosophers Understand Exploitation?
Initial registration date
May 08, 2022

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
May 10, 2022, 4:40 AM EDT

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

Last updated
May 18, 2022, 9:07 AM EDT

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


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Primary Investigator

ESMT Berlin

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Middlebury College
PI Affiliation
University of Warwick
PI Affiliation
Queen Mary University of London

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
We aim to test two conditions related to ongoing debates in exploitation theory by surveying academic philosophers. First, whether subjects place a greater emphasis on substantive or procedural notions of fairness in the context of economic transactions. Second, whether subjects view exploitation as a purely distributive phenomenon, or whether they think exploitation requires something more than mere maldistribution between transactors. Although these conditions have been the focus of ongoing theoretical debate, they have never been tested empirically. The results of the experiments will have relevance for redistributive public policy, institutional design, and workers’ rights initiatives.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ferguson, Benjamin et al. 2022. "How Do Philosophers Understand Exploitation?." AEA RCT Registry. May 18.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The extent to which hypothetical scenarios are viewed as exploitative.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The extent to which a particular hypothetical scenario is viewed as exploitative, measured on a scale from 0 (labeled “not at all exploitative”) to 100 (“maximally exploitative”), with 50 labeled “moderately exploitative.” The variable is generated by each subject selecting a point on a slider (allowing integer responses 0-100) following the question asked after each scenario: “Based only on the information provided, how exploitative is this scenario in your opinion?”

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Philosophical and political views, and demographics.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
After the vignettes, subjects answer various questions on their philosophical and political views, followed by demographics. The exact questions asked can be viewed in the transcripts attached to this registry entry.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This is a factorial vignette experiment in which participants – in this case, professional philosophers – see a subset of 10 vignettes, or "scenarios", drawn from a pool of 31 scenarios, with an option to see 10 more.

All the scenarios concern the hypothetical purchase, sale and production of mugs. They differ along three principal dimensions – the explicit exercise of power, the existence of inequality, whether it is relational – and four subsidiary dimensions – background luck, the satisfaction of basic needs, unjust power source and disrespect.

The full text from the survey (the initial email confirmation page and the main survey) is attached to this registry entry.

Our main hypotheses and an outline of our analysis plan are attached to this registry entry.

Individual choices are not incentivized, but participation will be, via the distribution of Amazon vouchers worth 200 USD (or local equivalent) sent to 10 randomly selected addresses from the set of respondents who complete the survey (and do not opt out of the prize draw).

We will recruit philosophers (professional academics and graduate students) online, through two well-known philosophy blogs and a direct e-mail mail out. Subjects responding via the blog are required first to enter their institutional email address in an initial one-page “survey”, which then emails them a personalized link to the main survey. This enables us to confirm they are at a recognized academic institution.

The blogs are Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog ( and Daily Nous ( Leiter Reports is the preeminent blog in professional philosophy, reporting “news and views about philosophy, the academic profession, academic freedom, intellectual culture, and other topics.” It is edited by Prof. Brian Leiter (Chicago), receives over 300,000 monthly visits, and is ranked 401,118 on (as of 30 April 2022). Daily Nous is a similarly popular blog, reporting “news for and about the philosophy profession”. It is edited by Dr. Justin Weinberg (University of South Carolina), receives a similar number of monthly visits, and is ranked 263,056 on (as of 30 April 2022).

[Update on May 18, 2022: Since launching on the two main blogs reporting news from the philosophy profession (Leiter Reports and Daily Nous) discussed above, we made connections with one additional blog and a list serv. A link to the survey was posted on Crooked Timber ( on May 17 and will be distributed to the Philos-L list serv (hosted by the University of Liverpool) on May 20. Our survey’s expiration date of July 4, 2022 remains valid for all data sources.]

A database of ~2600 professional philosophers’ emails was compiled from the addresses available on the websites of the world’s top rated philosophy departments, as ranked by the Philosophical Gourmet Report (

We selected many likely locations in the Trial Information section of this entry. Ours is a global (online) study so participation is possible from anywhere in principle, but "global" or "online" were not options in the Location field and we were required to enter at least one location.

*Exclusion criteria*
We will discard any responses linked to non-institutional email domains because it is important that we restrict responses to academic philosophers only (see notes on subject-recruitment below). We will discard responses from those declaring themselves to be undergraduate students. Data from those respondents will not be analyzed or presented.

Additional possible grounds for exclusion include response times so fast (e.g., within 2 seconds) that it is not credible that any attention was paid or incomplete survey responses. If we exclude any such data, we will report the exclusions, and report results both with and without the exclusions.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Implemented by the employed survey software, Qualtrics.
Randomization Unit
The presentation of the scenarios is quasi-randomized within-subject: all participants first see the same two control scenarios, displayed in a random order, followed by a random selection of the remaining 29 scenarios. At most, one subject would see 20 of the total set of 31 scenarios.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
No clustering
Sample size: planned number of observations
We expect to recruit several hundred participants. Due to the nature of the data collection process we do not restrict ourselves to a given sample size. Instead, we fix the amount of time the survey is live: the initial link will be posted on the blogs no earlier than May 16, 2022 (the exact date and time the blog owner posts the link is out of our control), we send the link to our database of email addresses on June 6, 2022 and a reminder to those who did not respond on June 20, 2022. We will close the survey at 12.00PM UTC on July 4, 2022. After that point, no more data can or will be be collected.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
ESMT Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Queen Mary Ethics of Research Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Middlebury College IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
University of Warwick Humanities & Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
HSSREC 80/21-22.
Analysis Plan

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