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Experiments in economics: should we trust the dismal scientists in white coats?

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  • Chris Starmer

Abstract

Is the rapid growth of experimental research in economics evidence of a new scientific spirit at work or merely fresh evidence of a misplaced desire to ape the methods of natural sciences? It is often argued that economic experiments are artificial in some sense that tends to render the results problematic or uninteresting. In the early part of this paper I argue that this artificiality critique does not provide a convincing philosophical objection to experimentation in economics. Later sections of the paper argue that methodological discourse in relation to experiments has become somewhat polarized: experimentalists have promoted a position that seeks to defuse objections to experiments; theorists have taken up positions that insulate theory from experimental challenge. I argue that these strategies are overly defensive and tend to stifle rather than promote the goals of economic enquiry.

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File URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13501789900000001
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 6 (1999)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 1-30

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:6:y:1999:i:1:p:1-30

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Related research

Keywords: experimental economics; Duhem-Quine problem;

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Cited by:
  1. Dorian Jullien & Nicolas Vallois, 2012. "A Probabilistic Ghost in the Experimental Machine," GREDEG Working Papers 2012-05, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Économie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.
  2. Søberg, Morten, 2003. "The Duhem-Quine thesis and experimental economics: A reinterpretation," Memorandum 21/2002, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  3. Marie-Laure Cabon-Dhersin & Nathalie Etchart-Vincent, 2012. "The puzzle of cooperation in a game of chicken: An experimental study," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00636089, HAL.
  4. List John A., 2007. "Field Experiments: A Bridge between Lab and Naturally Occurring Data," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 1-47, April.
  5. Geoffrey M. Hodgson, 2004. "¿Los experimentos pueden falsear la teoría de la utilidad esperada?," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 6(10), pages 17-45, January-J.
  6. Michael McBride & David Hewitt, 2012. "The Enemy You Can't See: An Investigation of the Disruption of Dark Networks," Working Papers 121307, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  7. Bruno S. Frey & Benno Torgler, 2004. "Taxation and Conditional Taxation," Working Papers 2004/7, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  8. Marie-Laure Cabon-Dhersin & Nathalie Etchart-Vincent, 2008. "Cooperation in a Game of Chicken with Heterogeneous Agents: An Experimental Study," CIRED Working Papers hal-00395939, HAL.
  9. Marc Le Menestrel & Luk Van Wassenhove, 2001. "The Domain and Interpretation of Utility Functions: An Exploration," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 329-349, December.
  10. Morten Søberg, 2002. "The Duhem-Quine thesis and experimental economics. A reinterpretation," Discussion Papers 329, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
  11. Robin Cubitt, 2005. "Experiments and the domain of economic theory," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 197-210.
  12. Fiore, Annamaria, 2009. "Experimental Economics: Some Methodological Notes," MPRA Paper 12498, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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