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An Experimental Test of the Effectiveness of Terms & Conditions

46 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2013  

Zev J. Eigen

Littler Mendelson

Date Written: October 7, 2013


Requiring individuals to consent to “terms & conditions” is the overwhelmingly dominant strategy used to try to curb unauthorized use of products like motion pictures and music. This study is the first to employ a randomized controlled behavioral experiment testing whether this strategy is as effective as other means of achieving this goal. Individuals randomly assigned to either a “terms and condition” (“T&C”) frame or alternative frames (promise-keeping, trust, threat, naked request, and a control) were presented an opportunity to take an online presidential election poll more than once (and receive additional remuneration each time they did), even though they were made aware that they were not authorized to do so. The T&C frame was the least effective at keeping subjects from taking the poll more than once. Asking individuals to promise not to behave in the undesirable way, or signaling trust that they would not behave in the undesirable way were the best frames for curbing unauthorized multiple poll-taking.

Keywords: contract, form, adhesive, adhesion, internet, Hollywood, entertainment, end user, EULA, license agreement, experiment, cheating, dishonesty, poll, president, election, consumer, agreement

JEL Classification: K10, K12, K39

Suggested Citation

Eigen, Zev J., An Experimental Test of the Effectiveness of Terms & Conditions (October 7, 2013). Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 13-32. Available at SSRN: or

Zev J. Eigen (Contact Author)

Littler Mendelson

2049 Century Park E
Suite 500
Los Angeles, CA 90067
United States


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