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Please note: To accommodate reviewer and recommender holiday schedules, we will be closed to submissions from 1st July — 1st September. During this time, reviewers will be able to submit reviews and recommenders will issue decisions, but no new or revised submissions will be made by authors. The one exception to this rule is that authors using the scheduled track who submit their initial Stage 1 snapshot prior to 1st July can choose a date within the shutdown period to submit their full Stage 1 manuscript.

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IdTitleAuthorsAbstract▲PictureThematic fieldsRecommenderReviewersSubmission date
11 Apr 2023
STAGE 2
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Stage 2 Registered Report: Stress regulation via being in nature and social support in adults, a meta-analysis

Does emotional support and being in nature influence stress?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Felix Schönbrodt and Siu Kit Yeung
Stress is a familiar presence in modern life and may be rising in severity (Almeida et al., 2020). As a key driver of many health problems, controlling stress and its impacts is a central goal in clinical and health psychology, yet the effectiveness of existing interventions to regulate stress remains unclear. 
 
In the current study, Sparacio et al tackled this question from a meta-analytic perspective, focusing on a corpus of existing research that has addressed the efficacy of two specific stress regulation interventions: being in nature and emotional social support. As well as evaluating the evidential content of the relevant literatures, the authors also examined signs of publication bias and the moderating role of personality traits.
 
After correcting for publication bias, the results reveal evidence that being in nature is effective at reducing stress while emotional social support is not. The moderating role of personality for both interventions was inconclusive due to lack of evidence. In addition, the quality of the surveyed literature was found to be low overall, suffering from a high risk of bias and high rate of statistical reporting errors. The authors offer several recommendations to improve the rigour and quality of studies in this field, including open data, open materials, code review, preregistration and the use of Registered Reports.
 
The Stage 2 manuscript was evaluated over one round of in-depth review. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 2 criteria and awarded a positive recommendation.
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/c25qw
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 3. At least some data/evidence that was used to the answer the research question had been previously accessed by the authors (e.g. downloaded or otherwise received), but the authors certify that they did not observe ANY part of the data/evidence prior to Stage 1 IPA.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Almeida, D. M., Charles, S. T., Mogle, J., Drewelies, J., Aldwin, C. M., Spiro, A. III, & Gerstorf, D. (2020). Charting adult development through (historically changing) daily stress processes. American Psychologist, 75(4), 511–524. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000597
 
2. Sparacio, A., Ropovik, I., Jiga-Boy, G. M., Lağap, A. C. & IJzerman, H. (2023). Stage 2 Registered Report: Stress regulation via being in nature and social support in adults, a meta-analysis. Acceptance of version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/a4zmj
Stage 2 Registered Report: Stress regulation via being in nature and social support in adults, a meta-analysisAlessandro Sparacio, Ivan Ropovik, Gabriela M. Jiga-Boy, Adar Cem Lağap, Hans IJzerman<p>In this meta-analysis, the authors investigated whether being in nature and emotional social support are reliable strategies to downregulate stress. We retrieved all the relevant articles that investigated a connection between one of these two ...Social sciencesChris Chambers2023-01-09 09:32:27 View
24 Oct 2022
STAGE 2
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Does alleviating poverty increase cognitive performance? Short- and long-term evidence from a randomized controlled trial

No strong effect of unconditional cash transfers on cognition

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Charlotte Pennington and Matúš Adamkovič
Recent studies have revealed potential benefits of unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) on a variety of health and social outcomes, including self-reported happiness and life satisfaction (Haushofer & Shapiro, 2016), economic and financial well-being (Blattman et al., 2013; Baird et al., 2018) and educational attainment (Baird et al., 2016). Although the effects of UCTs do not always out-perform rigorous control conditions (Whillans & West, 2022), these findings prompt the question of whether the alleviation of poverty via UCTs can also influence cognitive processing and performance.
 
In the current study, Szaszi et al. analysed the results of a previous randomised trial of UCTs by Blattman et al. (2017) to test whether a $200 lump sum – equivalent to three months of income – administered to a sample of young men in Liberia carries both short- and long-term benefits for a range of executive functions, including attention, response inhibition, and working memory capacity. Overall, the results suggest minimal if any consequences of the intervention – the observed effects of UCTs on cognition were several times smaller than suggested by previous research, and the evidence for a positive effect was inconclusive. Extensive multiverse analyses showed that these findings were robust to a range of alternative analytical specifications, and the authors estimate that a sample size of nearly 5000 would be required to provide strong evidence.
 
In their Discussion, the authors explore a range of reasons for the negative findings compared with previous research, including the more rigorous and severe causal test enabled by the randomised trial design, the demographic homogeneity of the sample demographic, the use of pen-and-paper tests (cf. computerised tests in previous studies), and the delivery of a lump-sum cash transfer compared with a regular monthly installment. In addition, although the results were negative or inconclusive, there were hints that a positive effect of UCTs may be more evident in some cognitive domains than in others – in this case, potentially benefiting working memory more than inhibitory control. Further research would be required to confirm this hypothesis.
 
The Stage 2 manuscript was evaluated over one round of in-depth review. Based on the responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 2 criteria and awarded a positive recommendation.
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/k56yv
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 2. At least some data/evidence that was used to answer the research question had been accessed and partially observed by the authors prior to Stage 1 acceptance, but the authors certified that they had not yet observed the key variables within the data that would be used to answer the research question AND they took additional steps to maximise bias control and rigour.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Haushofer, J. & Shapiro, J.  (2016). The short-term impact of unconditional cash transfers to the poor: Experimental evidence from Kenya. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 13, 1973–2042. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjw025
 
2. Blattman, C., Fiala, N. & Martinez, S. (2013) Generating skilled self-employment in developing countries: Experimental evidence from Uganda. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 129, 697–752. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjt057
 
3. Baird, S., McKenzie, D., & Özler, B. (2018). The effects of cash transfers on adult labor market outcomes. IZA Journal of Development and Migration, 8, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40176-018-0131-9
 
4. Baird, S., Chirwa, E., De Hoop, J., & Özler, B. (2016). Girl power: cash transfers and adolescent welfare: evidence from a cluster-randomized experiment in Malawi. In African Successes, Volume II: Human Capital (pp. 139-164). University of Chicago Press. https://www.nber.org/system/files/chapters/c13380/c13380.pdf
 
5. Whillans, A., & West, C. (2022). Alleviating time poverty among the working poor: A pre-registered longitudinal field experiment. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-04352-y
 
6. Blattman, C., Jamison, J. C. & Sheridan, M. (2017). Reducing crime and violence: Experimental evidence from cognitive behavioral therapy in Liberia. American Economic Review, 107, 1165–1206. http://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20150503
 
7. Szaszi, B., Palfi, B., Neszveda, G., Taka, A., Szecsi, P., Blattman, C., Jamison, J. C., & Sheridan, M. (2022). Does alleviating poverty increase cognitive performance? Short- and long-term evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Stage 2 Registered Report, acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://psyarxiv.com/4gyzh
Does alleviating poverty increase cognitive performance? Short- and long-term evidence from a randomized controlled trialBarnabas Szaszi, Bence Palfi, Gabor Neszveda, Aikaterini Taka, Péter Szécsi, Christopher Blattman, Julian C. Jamison, Margaret Sheridan<p>In this Registered Report, we investigated the impact of a poverty alleviation program on cognitive performance. We analyzed data from a randomized controlled trial conducted on low-income, high-risk individuals in Liberia where a random half o...Social sciencesChris Chambers2022-07-13 12:10:49 View
24 Apr 2024
STAGE 1
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Synaesthesia as a Model for Assessing Individual Differences in Visual Perception and Memory Performance

What can synaesthesia tell us about links between perception and memory?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Janina Neufeld, David Brang and Tessa van Leeuwen
What is the relationship between perception and memory? Although these topics are typically investigated separately, there is evidence that these cognitive processes may be related: for example, individuals with synaesthesia may experience both enhancements in visual acuity and visual memory; and individuals with amnesia may also show deficits in visual perceptual processing. However, comprehensive evidence for the relationship between perception and different forms of memory (both short-term and long-term) is currently lacking.
 
In this Stage 1 manuscript, Whelan et al. (2024) seek to elucidate this relationship by investigating individual differences in perception and memory in a general population sample (i.e., in synaesthetes, non-synaesthetic relatives, and controls). There are two accounts that may explain enhanced perception and memory in synaesthesia: a ‘dual-coding’ account, which suggests that the extra perceptual information often experienced in synaesthesia (e.g., seeing colors for different letters of the alphabet) may contribute to encoding richer information in sensory memory; and an ‘enhanced processing’ account, which posits that enhanced perception and memory in synaesthesia may be due to genetic or environmental factors not directly related to synaesthetic experiences. In the former case, synaesthetes should perform more similarly to each other than to their non-synaesthetic relatives; in the latter case, non-synaesthetic relatives of synaesthetes should show similar perceptual and memory benefits. The current study should therefore find evidence in favor of one of these accounts over the other. In addition to this, the authors will generate multidimensional cognitive profiles of synaesthetes and their relatives, compared to non-synaethetes, including perception, memory, mental imagery and cognitive styles. 
 
The Stage 1 submission was evaluated by the recommender and two expert reviewers. Following revisions, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/6h8dx (under temporary private embargo)
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Whelan, E., Sachdeva, C., Ovalle-Fresa, R., Rothen R., & Ward, J. (2024). Synaesthesia as a Model for Assessing Individual Differences in Visual Perception and Memory Performance. In principle acceptance of Version 3 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/6h8dx
Synaesthesia as a Model for Assessing Individual Differences in Visual Perception and Memory PerformanceEmily Whelan, Chhavi Sachdeva, Rebecca Ovalle-Fresa, Nicolas Rothen and Jamie Ward<p>In this study, the cognitive profile of synaesthesia (a perceptual condition in which primary experiences, such as perceiving digits or words, elicit extra secondary sensations) is used as a model system to assess visual perceptual abilities an...Social sciencesReshanne Reeder2023-11-07 13:02:39 View
22 Apr 2024
STAGE 2
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Progression of white matter hyperintensities is related to blood pressure increases and global cognitive decline – a registered report

White matter lessions are associated with increases in blood pressure and global cognitive decline

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Isabel Garcia Garcia
Cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) is a common and multi-faceted set of pathologies that affect the small arteries, arterioles, venules and capillaries of the brain. The disease manifests through a range of symptoms and conditions, including psychiatric disorders, abnormal gait, and urinary incontinence, while accounting for 25% of strokes and nearly 50% of dementia.
 
The presence of CSVD is associated with white matter lesions detected as white matter hyperintensities (WMH) using neuroimaging, which have in turn been shown to predict future stroke, cognitive decline and dementia. While vascular risk factors of CSVD (such as hypertension and obesity) are also associated with CSVD, a complete picture of the predictive relationship between WMH, cognitive decline, and blood pressure remains to be determined, as does the role of sex/gender. These inter-relationships are important to determine for improving the diagnosis and treatment of CSVD.
 
In the current study, Beyer et al. analysed a large emerging dataset from the LIFE-Adult project – a longitudinal, two-wave, population-based study – to ask whether higher blood pressure predicts a greater increase in WMH, and whether progression of WMH is associated with measures of memory and executive function. In addition, the authors explored the relationship between abdominal obesity and WMH progression, and the extent to which WMH progression, and its interaction with vascular risk factors, depends on sex/gender.
 
Results revealed no reliable association between baseline blood pressure with WMH progression. WMH progression significantly predicted global cognitive decline but not decline in executive function specifically. Exploratory analyses revealed that increases in diastolic blood pressure as well as baseline and systolic blood pressure were associated with WMH progression, specifically in frontal periventricular regions, but there was no association of waist-to-hip ratio (a proxy of abdominal fat deposits) with WMH progression nor any gender-specific associations. The authors conclude that strict control of blood pressure might confer a protective effect, limiting WMH progression and negative effects on global cognitive function in the middle-aged to older population.
 
The Stage 2 manuscript was evaluated over one round of in-depth review. Based on responses to the reviewer's comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 2 criteria and awarded a positive recommendation.
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/qkbgj
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 2. At least some data/evidence that was used to answer the research question had been accessed and partially observed by the authors prior to Stage 1 in-principle acceptance, but the authors certify that they had not yet observed the key variables within the data that were used to answer the research question.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Beyer, F., Lammer, L., Loeffler, M., Riedel-Heller, S., Debette, S., Villringer, A. & Witte, A. V. (2023). Progression of white matter hyperintensities is related to blood pressure increases and global cognitive decline – a registered report [Stage 2]. Acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/k24pm
Progression of white matter hyperintensities is related to blood pressure increases and global cognitive decline – a registered reportFrauke Beyer, Laurenz Lammer, Markus Loeffler, Steffi Riedel-Heller, Stéphanie Debette, Arno Villringer, A. Veronica Witte<p>Introduction<br>White matter hyperintensities (WMH) reflect cerebral small vessel disease (cSVD), a major brain pathology contributing to cognitive decline and dementia. Vascular risk factors including higher diastolic blood pressure (DBP) have...Humanities, Medical SciencesChris Chambers2024-02-15 17:16:37 View
01 Dec 2022
STAGE 1
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Cerebral lateralization of writing in students at risk for dyslexia using functional Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography

Lateralisation for written language in primary school students at risk for dyslexia

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Margriet Groen and Todd Richards
While cerebral lateralisation for oral language is well-characterised, cerebral lateralisation for written language is much less well-understood. In this study, Papadopoulou et al. (2022) will use functional transcranial Doppler ultrasonography to assess lateralisation for written language in 7- to 9-year-old children at risk for dyslexia and neurotypical children. They will use tasks that assess efficiency in reading and writing names as well as speed and fluency in writing. The findings of this manuscript will highlight whether children with dyslexia showed atypical lateralisation for language in a written task. In addition, the authors plan to explore the correlation between lateralisation and writing competence. 
 
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over two rounds of in-depth review. Based on the edits made to the manuscript, and detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/u54tk (under temporary private embargo)
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA. 
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Papadopoulou, A.-K., Vlachos, F., Pervanidou, P., Anesiadou, S., Antoniou, F., Phylactou, P., Badcock, N.A. & Papadatou-Pastou, M. (2022). Cerebral lateralization of writing in students at risk for dyslexia using functional Transcranial Doppler ultrasonography, in principle acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/u54tk (under temporary private embargo)
Cerebral lateralization of writing in students at risk for dyslexia using functional Transcranial Doppler ultrasonographyAnastasia-Konstantina Papadopoulou, Filippos Vlachos, Panagiota Pervanidou, Sofia Anesiadou, Faye Antoniou, Phivos Phylactou, Nicholas A. Badcock, Marietta Papadatou-Pastou<p>It is well established that the left hemisphere is dominant in oral language in the majority of neurotypical individuals, while a more symmetrical pattern of activation in shown in cases of language disorders, such as dyslexia. Cerebral lateral...Humanities, Life Sciences, Social sciencesSaloni Krishnan Margriet Groen, Todd Richards2022-06-06 09:00:26 View
18 Jan 2023
STAGE 1
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Beneath the label: Assessing video games’ compliance with ESRB and PEGI loot box warning label industry self-regulation

How effective is self-regulation in loot box labelling?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Pete Etchells and Jim Sauer
Paid loot boxes – items bought for real-world money that offer randomised rewards – are a prevalent feature of contemporary video games (Zendle et al., 2020). Because they employ random chance to provide rewards after spending real money, loot boxes have been considered a form of gambling, raising concerns about risk of harm to children and other vulnerable users. In response, some countries have taken legal steps to regulate and even ban the use of loot boxes, with only limited success so far (Xiao, 2022). At the same time, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) now expect games that contain loot boxes to be marked with warning labels that, in theory, will enable users (including parents) to make more informed decisions. These requirements by ESRB/PEGI are not legally binding and may be considered a form of industry self-regulation.
 
In the current study, Xiao (2023) will investigate the effectiveness of self-regulation in the use of loot box labels. Study 1 examines the consistency of warning labels by the ESRB and PEGI, with the expectation that if self-regulation works as it should then these labels should always (or nearly always) co-occur. Study 2 establishes the compliance rate for labelling among popular games that are known to contain loot boxes, with a rate of ≥95% considered to be successful. The findings should prove useful in identifying the success or failure of self-regulation as a means of ensuring industry compliance with loot box labelling.
 
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over two rounds of in-depth review. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/e6qbm
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 3. At least some data/evidence that will be used to the answer the research question has been previously accessed by the authors (e.g. downloaded or otherwise received), but the authors certify that they have not yet observed ANY part of the data/evidence.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Zendle, D., Meyer, R., Cairns, P., Waters, S., & Ballou, N. (2020). The prevalence of loot boxes in mobile and desktop games. Addiction, 115(9), 1768-1772. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14973

2. Xiao, L. Y. (2022). Breaking Ban: Belgium’s ineffective gambling law regulation of video game loot boxes. Stage 2 Registered Report, acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/hnd7w 
 
3. Xiao, L. Y. (2023). Beneath the label: Assessing video games’ compliance with ESRB and PEGI loot box warning label industry self-regulation, in principle acceptance of Version 3 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/e6qbm
Beneath the label: Assessing video games’ compliance with ESRB and PEGI loot box warning label industry self-regulationLeon Y. Xiao<p>Loot boxes in video games are a form of in-game transactions with randomised elements. Concerns have been raised about loot boxes’ similarities with gambling and their potential harms (e.g., overspending). Recognising players’ and parents’ conc...Humanities, Social sciencesChris Chambers2022-09-17 00:14:51 View
07 Mar 2023
STAGE 2
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Beneath the label: Unsatisfactory compliance with ESRB, PEGI, and IARC industry self-regulation requiring loot box presence warning labels by video game companies

Failure of industry self-regulation in loot box labelling

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO
Paid loot boxes – items bought for real-world money that offer randomised rewards – are a prevalent feature of contemporary video games (Zendle et al., 2020). Because they employ random chance to provide rewards after spending real money, loot boxes have been considered a form of gambling, raising concerns about risk of harm to children and other vulnerable users. In response, some countries have taken legal steps to regulate and even ban the use of loot boxes, with only limited success so far (Xiao, 2022). At the same time, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) now expect games that contain loot boxes to be marked with warning labels that, in theory, will enable users (including parents) to make more informed decisions. These requirements by ESRB/PEGI are not legally binding and may be considered a form of industry self-regulation.
 
In the current study, Xiao (2023) investigated the effectiveness of self-regulation in the use of loot box labels. Study 1 examined the consistency of warning labels by the ESRB and PEGI, with the expectation that if self-regulation works as it should then these labels should always (or nearly always) co-occur. Study 2 established the compliance rate for labelling among popular games that are known to contain loot boxes, with a rate of ≥95% considered to be successful.
 
The results of both studies reveal deficiences in industry self-regulation. The consistency rate of warning labels by the ESRB and PEGI was just 39.4% in preregistered analyses, rising to 83.9% in an unregistered exploratory analysis that took into account industry responses to the findings. Even at this upper bound, this rate is lower than expected by complete (or near-complete) consistency. The results of Study 2 indicate that only 29% of games on the Google Play Store known to contain loot boxes were accurately labelled, indicating that 71% were non-compliant with industry requirements.
 
Following careful evaluation, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 2 criteria and awarded a positive recommendation.
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/e6qbm
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 3. At least some data/evidence that was used to the answer the research question had been previously accessed by the authors (e.g. downloaded or otherwise received), but the authors certifed that they had not yet observed ANY part of the data/evidence prior to in-principle-acceptance.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Zendle, D., Meyer, R., Cairns, P., Waters, S., & Ballou, N. (2020). The prevalence of loot boxes in mobile and desktop games. Addiction, 115(9), 1768-1772. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14973

2. Xiao, L. Y. (2022). Breaking Ban: Belgium’s ineffective gambling law regulation of video game loot boxes. Stage 2 Registered Report, acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/hnd7w 
 
3. Xiao, L. Y. (2023). Beneath the label: Unsatisfactory compliance with ESRB, PEGI, and IARC industry self-regulation requiring loot box presence warning labels by video game companies, acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/asbcg
Beneath the label: Unsatisfactory compliance with ESRB, PEGI, and IARC industry self-regulation requiring loot box presence warning labels by video game companiesLeon Y. Xiao<p>Loot boxes in video games are a form of in-game transactions with randomised elements. Concerns have been raised about loot boxes’ similarities with gambling and their potential harms (e.g., overspending). Recognising players’ and parents’ conc...Humanities, Social sciencesChris Chambers Jim Sauer, Pete Etchells 2023-02-12 16:17:34 View
07 Apr 2022
STAGE 1
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Breaking Ban: Assessing the effectiveness of Belgium’s gambling law regulation of video game loot boxes

Has the “ban” of loot boxes eliminated them from Belgian mobile games?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Andrew Moshirnia, Joseph Macey and Jason Chin
Paid loot boxes, i.e. randomised monetization methods that are similar to lottery-type gambling, have become prominent features of contemporary gaming (e.g., Macey & Bujić, 2022). Because the design structures of loot boxes vary and the value of their virtual rewards is not always clear-cut, many countries now struggle how to deal with them legally and in practice (see Drummond et al., 2020). Belgium is one of the few countries that have officially interpreted loot box monetization to widely belong under gambling regulation. Mobile games that monetize with paid loot boxes in Belgium should thus apply for a gambling license, and companies should generally not offer paid loot boxes to local underage players at all.
 
In this Stage 1 Registered Report, Xiao (2022) has constructed a careful plan for testing whether the “ban” in Belgium has made the local mobile game market distinct in terms of paid loot boxes. The work builds on a rapidly accumulating literature and evolving methods (e.g., Xiao et al., 2021). The author will carry out a systematic qualitative investigation of the country’s top 100 (iPhone) mobile games to investigate whether paid loot box design components have indeed been removed from the products -- and if not, whether related game companies operate with a required gambling license. Additionally, Xiao (2022) will assess Belgium’s overall paid loot box prevalence in comparison to other countries and carry out a field experiment to test whether players can easily circumvent the local regulation by transporting or downloading different versions of software.
 
The study will produce valuable evidence regarding the effectiveness of loot box regulation in general, and more specifically, the results should be of utmost interest to Belgian legal authorities. To ensure the transparency and validity of the chosen methods as well as upcoming interpretations, the registered report format allowed the research design to be reviewed in three rounds before data collection. Three experts, representing the fields of law and gaming, reviewed the Stage 1 manuscript twice and agreed upon the acceptance of all details. Finally, the recommender carried out a third iteration with further requested revisions, which was followed by in-principle acceptance. 
 

URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/5mxp6

Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA.

List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:

References

  • Drummond, A., Sauer, J. D., Hall, L. C., Zendle, D., & Loudon, M. R. (2020). Why loot boxes could be regulated as gambling. Nature Human Behaviour, 4(10), 986-988.
  • Macey, J., & Bujić, M. (2022). "The Talk of the Town: Community Perspectiveson Loot Boxes." In Ruotsalainen et al. (eds), Modes of Esports Engagement in Overwatch (pp. 199-223). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Xiao, L. (2022) “Breaking Ban: Assessing the effectiveness of Belgium’s gambling law regulation of loot boxes.” Stage 1 Registered Report, in principle acceptance of Version 5 by Peer Community in Registered Reports.
  • Xiao, L. Y., Henderson, L. L., Yang, Y., & Newall, P. W. (2021). Gaming the system: suboptimal compliance with loot box probability disclosure regulations in China. Behavioural Public Policy, 1-27.
Breaking Ban: Assessing the effectiveness of Belgium’s gambling law regulation of video game loot boxesLeon Y. Xiao<p>Loot boxes in video games are gambling-like mechanics that players buy to obtain randomised rewards of varying value. Loot boxes are conceptually and psychologically similar to gambling, and loot box expenditure is positively correlated with se...Humanities, Social sciencesVeli-Matti Karhulahti2022-02-07 22:54:50 View
14 Nov 2022
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Breaking Ban: Belgium’s ineffective gambling law regulation of video game loot boxes

Loot boxes remain prevalent in Belgium despite their “ban”

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Andrew Moshirnia, Joseph Macey and Jason Chin
Several countries currently struggle to legally interpret and deal with loot boxes, i.e. gambling-like mechanisms that have become common especially in contemporary videogame design. One of the few countries to take a clear regulation stance is Belgium, which officially announced that they interpret paid loot boxes as games of chance that violate their Gaming and Betting Act and can thus be criminally prosecuted (Naessens 2018). This announcement four years ago laid the basis for a unique social experiment where companies offering loot boxes in Belgium had to decide whether to modify their games, exit the market, or continue to monetize with loot boxes. In the present study, Xiao (2022) investigated the outcomes of this experiment both via hypotheses testing and exploratory analysis.
 
Using the 100 highest-grossing iPhone games in Belgium as data and applying comprehensive qualitative mechanical analysis to each title, Xiao (2022) tested three preregistered hypotheses regarding loot box prevalence. None of the hypotheses were confirmed: the prevalence rate of loot boxes in the Belgian App Store was not null but extremely high (82.0%), also among mobile games designed for minors (54.2–80.2%), and significantly more compared to global standards when assessed by a binomial test (p<.001). Corroborating a fourth hypothesis, Xiao was also able to access various UK loot boxes in Belgium. In exploratory research, Xiao received a confirmation from the Belgian Gaming Commission that even “simulated gambling games” (that do not yield monetary wins) also legally constitute gambling in Belgium.
 
The results are the first to describe outcomes of ban-driven loot box regulation globally. Despite Belgium’s clear statement that “paid loot boxes must be removed from the video games in order to comply with the Belgian Gaming and Betting Act” (Naessens 2018, p. 16), almost all highest-grossing iPhone games in the Belgian App Store keep offering them. The finding is important especially for the legal authorities around the world who are currently assessing their own positions in potential regulation: simple statements are unlikely to have immediate effects on international companies in local markets. On the other hand, it remains unknown how these companies have interpreted the statement and what are their distinct reasons for continuing to offer loot boxes in the Belgian App Store. It would be important in future research to investigate the companies’ perspectives.
 
This study (Xiao 2022) is important also from a meta-scientific perspective. It paves the way for Registered Reports in new disciplines and methods, and involves an exceptional field experiment that was carefully documented with open data and materials. Three external experts reviewed the Stage 2 manuscript twice, based on which the recommender awarded a positive recommendation.
 

URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/5mxp6

Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that was used to answer the research question existed prior to Stage 1 in-principle acceptance.

List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:

 

References
 
1. Naessens, P. (2018) Research Report on Loot Boxes [English Translation]. Belgian Gaming Commission. URL: https://www.gamingcommission.be/sites/default/files/2021-08/onderzoeksrapport-loot-boxen-Engels-publicatie.pdf
 
2. Xiao, L.Y. (2022) Breaking Ban: Belgium’s ineffective gambling law regulation of video game loot boxes. Stage 2 Registered Report, acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/hnd7w 
Breaking Ban: Belgium’s ineffective gambling law regulation of video game loot boxesLeon Y. Xiao<p>Loot boxes in video games are gambling-like mechanics that players buy to obtain randomised rewards of varying value. Loot boxes are conceptually and psychologically similar to gambling, and loot box expenditure is positively correlated with se...Humanities, Social sciencesVeli-Matti Karhulahti2022-07-28 12:29:57 View
25 Mar 2024
STAGE 1
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Assessing compliance with UK loot box industry self-regulation on the Apple App Store: a 6-month longitudinal study on the implementation process

Does self regulation by gaming companies for the use of loot boxes work?

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Chris Chambers, Lukas J. Gunschera and Andy Przybylski
Video games may provide the option of spending real money in exchange for probabilistically receiving game-relevant rewards; in effect, encouraging potentially young teenagers to gamble. The industry has subscribed to a set of regulatory principles to cover the use of such "loot boxes", including 1) that they will prevent loot box purchasing by under 18s unless parental consent is given; 2) that they will make it initially clear that the game contains loot boxes; and 3) that they will clearly disclose the probabilities of receiving different rewards.
 
Can the industry effectively self regulate? Xiao (2024) will evaluate this important question by investigating the 100 top selling games on the Apple App Store and estimating the percentage compliance to these three regulatory principles at two time points 6 months apart.
 
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over one round of in-depth review. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
 
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/3knyb
 
Level of bias control achieved: Level 2. At least some data/evidence that will be used to answer the research question has been accessed and partially observed by the authors, but the authors certify that they have not yet observed the key variables within the data that will be used to answer the research question.
 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
 
 
References
 
1. Xiao, L. (2024). Assessing compliance with UK loot box industry self-regulation on the Apple App Store: a 6-month longitudinal study on the implementation process. In principle acceptance of Version 3 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/3knyb
Assessing compliance with UK loot box industry self-regulation on the Apple App Store: a 6-month longitudinal study on the implementation processLeon Y. Xiao<p>Loot boxes in video games can be purchased with real-world money in exchange for random rewards. Stakeholders are concerned about loot boxes’ similarities with gambling and their potential harms (e.g., overspending). The UK Government has decid...Humanities, Social sciencesZoltan Dienes2023-08-27 22:47:03 View