Honest Communication and Cooperation in the Golden Balls Game

Last registered on June 15, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Honest Communication and Cooperation in the Golden Balls Game
Initial registration date
June 13, 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
June 15, 2022, 10:18 AM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

University of Otago

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Otago
PI Affiliation
University of Otago

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
A (somewhat counterintuitive) finding in a recently published article from Bahel et al. (2022) is that communication may lead to less cooperation in the Golden Balls Game in populations that value honesty more. In this study we test this finding empirically with the help of controlled laboratory experiments. In addition, we investigate to what extent behaviour in the Golden Balls Game is correlated with various personality traits at the individual level.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Neururer, Daniel, Ronald Peeters and Euan Richardson. 2022. "Honest Communication and Cooperation in the Golden Balls Game." AEA RCT Registry. June 15. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.9587
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Test empirically a prediction from the theoretical model of Bahel et al. (2022) that states that communication may decrease cooperation in the Golden Balls Game in populations that value honesty more.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment will be conducted online using Qualtrics and participants will be recruited using Prolific. Participants are asked to take part in 2 decision tasks, where the second task consists of two parts. In total 5 decisions need to be made in these tasks. After completing the decision tasks, there will be in total 27 short survey questions.

In task 1 (a mind game), participants are asked to imagine a number between 0 and 100. Then, we inform the subjects that the imagined number will be transferred to points (100 points equals 1 GBP) and ask the subjects to report the imagined number. After this task we divide the subjects into two groups where one group has reported relatively higher numbers than the other group (this implies that one group reported less honestly than the other).

These two groups form the basis for task 2 where we inform the subjects immediately if they are a member of the more or less honest group, which depends on the number the respective subject reported (note that we do not use the word ‘honest’ in the experiment).

In part 1 of task 2, we explain to the subjects the rules of the Golden Balls Game where two subjects are matched and have to decide simultaneously between Option X and Option Y. Depending on the options chosen by the two subjects the payoffs from this part will be determined (i.e, if both subjects choose Option X, each subject receives 100 points; if both subjects choose Option Y, each subject receives 0 points; and if both subjects choose different options, the one choosing Option Y receives 200 points, while the one choosing Option X receives 0 points).

In part 2 of task 2, the subjects have the option to communicate a (non-binding) intention regarding the option that will be chosen to the matched subjects before playing the Golden Balls Game once again. Then, the subjects make their actual option choice can contingent on the message received from the matched subject.

Finally, the subjects will be asked 27 short survey questions that elicit a separate score for the following personality traits: guilt proneness, Machiavellianism and honesty-humility.

Actual payment is according to task 1 and one of the two parts of task 2 where each part is equally likely to be selected (via computerised randomisation). These payments are processed via Prolific. Participants receive 0.01 GBP for each point and this can result in earnings up to 3 GBP based on their decisions. In addition, they receive a fixed participation fee of 2 GBP.

Before running the experiment, we will run a pilot with 40 participants. The main reason for this pilot is that we are not fully sure about the distribution of reported numbers in task 1. Therefore, in the pilot we do not divide the subjects into two groups after task 1 (we simply observe the outcome of task 1 for the sake of calibrating the main experiment). The results of this pilot could be used as a benchmark with respect to the results of the main experiment.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
All randomisations are computerised.
Randomization Unit
The randomisations are on individual level and on pairs regarding which of the two parts in task 2 is paid out.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
300 observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
150 participants in each of the two "honesty" groups
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Otago Human Ethics Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Analysis Plan

MD5: b8a3dff6b857680a0e07b5b9b4b56df6

SHA1: bdb0ce2204b66d28d8b278614b1b96486d627adf

Uploaded At: June 13, 2022


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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