Author ORCID Identifier

Thomas Jamieson

Nicholas Weller

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Journal of Experimental Political Science

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In many situations, incentives exist to acquire knowledge and make correct political decisions. We conduct an experiment that contributes to a small but growing literature on incentives and political knowledge, testing the effect of certain and uncertain incentives on knowledge. Our experiment builds on the basic theoretical point that acquiring and using information is costly, and incentives for accurate answers will lead respondents to expend greater effort on the task and be more likely to answer knowledge questions correctly. We test the effect of certain and uncertain incentives and find that both increase effort and accuracy relative to the control condition of no incentives for accuracy. Holding constant the expected benefit of knowledge, we do not observe behavioral differences associated with the probability of earning an incentive for knowledge accuracy. These results suggest that measures of subject performance in knowledge tasks are contingent on the incentives they face. Therefore, to ensure the validity of experimental tasks and the related behavioral measures, we need to ensure a correspondence between the context we are trying to learn about and our experimental design.


© The Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2019.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.