Reward and effort in problem solving 2021

How do rewards affect how much effort we put into a decision?

Project title

How rewards alter the way people allocate effort: The case of the knapsack problem (HREC 13062)


This research aims to learn more about how rewards alter the way people allocate effort to a decision. More specifically, it aims to find evidence of a link between rewards, effort and quality of decision making.

The research is funded by the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business and Economics.

What will I be asked to do?

Should you agree to participate, you will be asked to solve several instances of the knapsack problem on a computer. In the task, you will have to find from a set of items with differing values and weights, the subset of items with the highest total value subject to a weight constraint. Instructions will be clearly explained to you and you will have a chance to practice before the actual experiment. During the actual experiment, the computer program will record your solution, time taken and intermediate steps for each of the problems.

This study is conducted online, and you will be required to use a desktop or laptop computer. Mobile devices such as phones or tablets cannot be used.

The estimated time commitment will be about two and a half hours. Participation in this study is completely voluntary and the information collected will remain confidential. You will receive between $20 and $60 for your participation. Part of the payment will depend on your performance in the decision problems. Participants will require a valid, registered Australian PayID to receive their payment (note that payments cannot be made through any other method).

How will my confidentiality be protected?

This is a de-identified study. We will protect the confidentiality of your responses to the fullest possible extent, within the limits of the law. Only de-identified participant codes will be used in storage of the data; identifying information is used only for payment purposes, and the link between identity and participant codes is kept separately from trading and response data. All data will be kept securely in the Department of Finance for a minimum of five years from the date of publications to result from the experiment.

How will I receive feedback?

Results of the study will be available from the researchers’ websites, be presented at conferences and be published in peer-reviewed journals.

Will participation prejudice me in any way?

Please be advised that your participation in this study is completely voluntary. Should you wish to withdraw at any stage, or withdraw any unprocessed data you have supplied, you are free to do so without prejudice, and receive $10. Any potential conflicts of interest arising if you are a student of the above researchers will not affect your grades in any way.

Where can I get further information?

Should you require any further information, or have any concerns regarding the conduct of this research, please contact the researchers on 03 9035 9950 .

This project follows the guidelines of the National Health and Medical Research Council Statement on Human Experimentation, and has been approved by: Human Research Ethics Committee, The University of Melbourne.

If you wish to contact someone independent of the study about ethical issues or your rights, or if you have any concerns or complaints relating to your participation in the study, you may contact: The Executive Officer, Human Research Ethics Committee, The University of Melbourne (phone: 03 8344 2073, fax: 03 9347 6739).

How do I agree to participate?

If you decide to participate, please sign up for an experimental session here.

Human ethics approval

This study has been approved by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee (project ID: HREC 13062).

Brain, Mind and Markets Lab
Department of Finance
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9035 9950