Working Paper

The adventure of running experiments with teenagers


Economists are increasingly interested in how to conduct experiments with teenagers. This
paper evaluates whether different methodological factors impact the answers of teenagers to
standard experimental tasks on measuring time preferences, risk preferences, cognitive abil-
ities and financial abilities, among others. Results show: i) the recruitment process matters
depending on whether the school includes the experiment as an institutional activity or the
teachers led the process particularly for their class; the dropout rate reduced significantly
from the first to the third experimental wave, when the school was responsible for organizing
the experiment; ii) hypothetical payments elicits similar results than monetary payments; iii)
adding visual elements to the experiment’s interface improves the quality of answers; and iv)
the type of electronic device on which subjects answer the tasks does not influence results,
while administrating the experiment by school teachers does affect the answers. We conclude
by giving three suggestions to researchers interested in conducting experiments with teenagers:
first, run the experiment as a school-programmed activity; second, it is not necessary the use
of real payments which increases the cost and complicates the recruitment; and third, integrate
visual components to the task.

Keywords: developmental decision-making, economic preferences, Field Experiments, Teenagers