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On the Validity of the Random Lottery Incentive System


  • Robin Cubitt
  • Chris Starmer
  • Robert Sugden


The random lottery incentive system is widely used in experimental economics to motivate subjects. This paper investigates its validity. It reports three experiments which compare responses given to decision tasks which are embedded in random lottery designs with responses in 'single choice' designs in which each subject faces just one task for real. The experiments were designed to detect cross-task contamination effects in the random lottery treatment. No significant differences between treatments, and no significant contamination effects, were found. Over the three experiments, observed differences between the treatments are adequately explained as sampling variation. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Suggested Citation

  • Robin Cubitt & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 1998. "On the Validity of the Random Lottery Incentive System," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 1(2), pages 115-131, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:1:y:1998:i:2:p:115-131
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1026435508449

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-955, December.
    2. Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1991. "Does the Random-Lottery Incentive System Elicit True Preferences? An Experimental Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 971-978, September.
    3. Bernasconi, Michele, 1994. "Nonlinear Preferences and Two-Stage Lotteries: Theories and Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(422), pages 54-70, January.
    4. Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1989. "Probability and Juxtaposition Effects: An Experimental Investigation of the Common Ratio Effect," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 159-178, June.
    5. Conlisk, John, 1989. "Three Variants on the Allais Example," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 392-407, June.
    6. Chris Starmer, 1992. "Testing New Theories of Choice under Uncertainty using the Common Consequence Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(4), pages 813-830.
    7. Beattie, Jane & Loomes, Graham, 1997. "The Impact of Incentives upon Risky Choice Experiments," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 155-168, March.
    8. Machina, Mark J, 1982. ""Expected Utility" Analysis without the Independence Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 277-323, March.
    9. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    10. Wilcox, Nathaniel T, 1993. "Lottery Choice: Incentives, Complexity and Decision Time," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(421), pages 1397-1417, November.
    11. Harrison, Glenn W, 1994. "Expected Utility Theory and the Experimentalists," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 223-253.
    12. Battalio, Raymond C & Kagel, John H & Jiranyakul, Komain, 1990. "Testing between Alternative Models of Choice under Uncertainty: Some Initial Results," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 25-50, March.
    13. Holt, Charles A, 1986. "Preference Reversals and the Independence Axiom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 508-515, June.
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