Wondering how much to pay your participants? Here are some useful considerations.
One of the most important elements of study setup is deciding on the study’s reward. A recent study of Mechanical Turk participants concluded that fair pay and realistic completion times had a large impact on the quality of data they were willing to provide.
On Prolific, it’s vital that trust goes both ways, and properly rewarding participants for their time is a large part of that. We enforce a minimum hourly reward of £6 / $8. But depending on the effort required by your study, this may not be sufficient to foster high levels of engagement and provide good data quality. Consider:
- The participant reimbursement guidelines of your institution. Some universities have set a minimum and maximum hourly rate (to avoid undue coercion). You might also consider the national minimum wage as a guideline.
- The amount of effort required to take part in your study: is it a simple online study, or do participants need to make a video recording or complete a particularly arduous task? If your study is effortful, consider paying more.
- How niche your population is: if you are searching for particularly unusual participants (or participants in well-paid jobs), then you will find it easier to recruit these participants if you are paying well for their time.
That said, paying more isn’t always a good idea! Consider that:
- Studies with particularly high rewards may bias your sample, as participants may feel ‘forced’ to choose that study when they might have gone to others. This may particularly apply to participants with a low socio-economic status.
- Participants sometimes share study information on external websites. If word gets out about a particularly well-paid study with niche inclusion criteria, you may attract liars.
- Bonus payments contingent on performance may make participants nervous about being paid, and lead to cheating.