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Do people behave in experiments as in the field?: evidence from donations

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  • Matthias Benz
  • Stephan Meier

Abstract

Laboratory experiments are an important methodology in economics, especially in the field of behavioral economics. However, it is still debated to what extent results from laboratory experiments can be applied to field settings. One highly important question with respect to the external validity of experiments is whether individuals act the same in experiments as they would in the field. ; This paper presents evidence on how individuals behave in donation experiments and how the same individuals behave in a naturally occurring decision situation on charitable giving. The results show that behavior in experiments is correlated with behavior in the field. The results are robust to variations in the experimental setting, and the correlation between experimental and field behavior is between 0.25 and 0.4. We discuss whether this correlation should be interpreted as strong or weak and what consequences the findings have for experimental economics.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Working Papers with number 06-8.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:06-8

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Keywords: Human behavior ; Interpersonal relations ; Charitable bequests;

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  1. Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8jd5z5j2, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  8. Vernon L. Smith, 1962. "An Experimental Study of Competitive Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 322.
  9. James Andreoni & Eleanor Brown & Isaac C. Rischall, 1999. "Charitable Giving by Married Couples: Who Decides and Why Does it Matter?," Department of Economics Working Papers 1999-07, McMaster University.
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