Instructions

53 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2017 Last revised: 6 May 2018

David Freeman

Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics

Garrett Petersen

Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Hanh Tong

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 30, 2018

Abstract

A survey of instruction delivery and reinforcement methods in recent laboratory experiments reveals a wide and inconsistently-reported variety of practices and limited research evaluating their effectiveness. Thus we experimentally compare how methods of delivering and reinforcing experiment instructions impact subjects’ understanding. We report a one-shot individual decision task in which misunderstanding can be unambiguously identified in behavior and find that misunderstanding is prevalent in our baseline treatment which uses plain, but relatively standard experimental instructions. We find combinations of reinforcement methods that can eliminate half of subjects’ misunderstanding, and we find that we can induce a similar reduction in misunderstanding via enhancements to the content of instructions. Residual misunderstanding suggests this may be an important source of noise in experimental studies.

Keywords: Attention, Comprehension, Instructions

JEL Classification: C91

Suggested Citation

Freeman, David and Kimbrough, Erik O. and Petersen, Garrett and Tong, Hanh, Instructions (April 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3010380 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3010380

David Freeman

Simon Fraser University (SFU) ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

Erik O. Kimbrough (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

One University Dr
Orange, CA 92866
United States

Garrett Petersen

Simon Fraser University (SFU) ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

Hanh Tong

Simon Fraser University (SFU) - Department of Economics ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Canada

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