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An experiment on experimental instructions

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  • M. Bigoni
  • D. Dragone

Abstract

In this paper we treat instructions as an experimental variable. Using a public good game, we study how the instructions' format affects the participants' understanding of the experiment, their speed of play and their experimental behavior. We show that longer instructions do not significantly improve the subjects' understanding of the experiment; on-screen instructions shorten average decision times with respect to on-paper instructions, and requiring forced inputs reduces waiting times, in particular for the slowest subjects. Consistent with cognitive load theory, we find that short, on-screen instructions which require forced inputs improve on subjects' comprehension and familiarity with the experimental task, and they contribute to reduce both decision and waiting times without affecting the overall pattern of contributions.

Suggested Citation

  • M. Bigoni & D. Dragone, 2011. "An experiment on experimental instructions," Working Papers wp794, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  • Handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:wp794
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Oechssler, Jörg & Roider, Andreas & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Cognitive abilities and behavioral biases," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 147-152, October.
    2. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2010. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1238-1260, June.
    3. Simon Gachter & Ernst Fehr, 2000. "Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 980-994, September.
    4. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2008. "Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment," IZA Discussion Papers 3609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Ben Greiner, 2004. "The Online Recruitment System ORSEE 2.0 - A Guide for the Organization of Experiments in Economics," Working Paper Series in Economics 10, University of Cologne, Department of Economics.
    6. Chetan Dave & Catherine Eckel & Cathleen Johnson & Christian Rojas, 2010. "Eliciting risk preferences: When is simple better?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 219-243, December.
    7. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bigoni, M. & Dragone, D., 2012. "Effective and efficient experimental instructions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(2), pages 460-463.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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