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Method in Experiment: Rhetoric and Reality

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  • Vernon Smith

Abstract

The methodological ideal of experimentalists, E, is easily stated: derive a testable hypothesis, H, from a well-specified theory, T; implement experiments with a design; implicitly in the latter are auxiliary hypotheses, A, that surface in the review/discussion of completed research reports (payoffs are 'adequate,' Ss are 'relevant,' instructions, context are 'clear,' etc.). We want to be able to conclude, if statistical test outcomes support not-H, that T is 'falsified.' But this is not what we do; rather we ask if there is a flaw in the test, i.e. not-A is supported, and we do more experiments. This is good practice—much better than the statistical rhetoric of falsificationism. Undesigned social processes allow E to accumulate technical and instrumental knowledge that drive the reduction of experimental error and constitute a more coherent methodology than falsificationism. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Suggested Citation

  • Vernon Smith, 2002. "Method in Experiment: Rhetoric and Reality," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 5(2), pages 91-110, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:5:y:2002:i:2:p:91-110
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1020330820698
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
    2. Davis, Douglas D. & Holt, Charles a., 1993. "Experimental economics: Methods, problems and promise," Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Económicos, vol. 8(2), pages 179-212.
    3. Camerer, Colin F & Hogarth, Robin M, 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 7-42, December.
    4. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 1999. "Wage Rigidity in a Competitive Incomplete Contract Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 106-134, February.
    5. Cox, James C & Oaxaca, Ronald L, 1999. "Can Supply and Demand Parameters Be Recovered from Data Generated by Market Institutions?," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(3), pages 285-297, July.
    6. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rassenti, Stephen J. & Smith, Vernon L., 1998. "Reciprocity, Trust, and Payoff Privacy in Extensive Form Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 24(1-2), pages 10-24, July.
    7. Van Boening, Mark V & Wilcox, Nathaniel T, 1996. "Avoidable Cost: Ride a Double Auction Roller Coaster," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 461-477, June.
    8. Holt, Charles A & Langan, Loren W & Villamil, Anne P, 1986. "Market Power in Oral Double Auctions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 24(1), pages 107-123, January.
    9. Friedman, Daniel, 1984. "On the Efficiency of Experimental Double Auction Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(1), pages 60-72, March.
    10. Burnham, Terence & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L., 2000. "Friend-or-foe intentionality priming in an extensive form trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 57-73, September.
    11. Vernon L. Smith, 1980. "Relevance of Laboratory Experiments to Testing Resource Allocation Theory," NBER Chapters,in: Evaluation of Econometric Models, pages 345-377 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Elizabeth Hoffman & Kevin McCabe & Vernon Smith, 2000. "The Impact of Exchange Context on the Activation of Equity in Ultimatum Games," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(1), pages 5-9, June.
    13. Williams, Arlington W, 1980. "Computerized Double-Auction Markets: Some Initial Experimental Results," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages 235-258, July.
    14. McCabe, Kevin A. & Rassenti, Stephen J. & Smith, Vernon L., 1989. "Designing `smart' computer-assisted markets : An experimental auction for gas networks," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 5(2-3), pages 259-283.
    15. George J. Stigler, 1957. "Perfect Competition, Historically Contemplated," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 1-1.
    16. S.J. Rassenti & V.L. Smith & R.L. Bulfin, 1982. "A Combinatorial Auction Mechanism for Airport Time Slot Allocation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 402-417, Autumn.
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    experimental economics; science; methodology;

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