IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Experiments versus models: New phenomena, inference and surprise


  • Mary Morgan


A comparison of models and experiments supports the argument that although both function as mediators and can be understood to work in an experimental mode, experiments offer greater epistemic power than models as a means to investigate the economic world. This outcome rests on the distinction that whereas experiments are versions of the real world captured within an artificial laboratory environment, models are artificial worlds built to represent the real world. This difference in ontology has epistemic consequences: experiments have greater potential to make strong inferences back to the world, but also have the power to isolate new phenomena. This latter power is manifest in the possibility that whereas working with models may lead to 'surprise', experimental results may be unexplainable within existing theory and so 'confound' the experimenter.

Suggested Citation

  • Mary Morgan, 2005. "Experiments versus models: New phenomena, inference and surprise," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 317-329.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:12:y:2005:i:2:p:317-329 DOI: 10.1080/13501780500086313

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    2. Hey, John D & Orme, Chris, 1994. "Investigating Generalizations of Expected Utility Theory Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1291-1326, November.
    3. Harless, David W & Camerer, Colin F, 1994. "The Predictive Utility of Generalized Expected Utility Theories," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1251-1289, November.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    5. Loomes, Graham & Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1991. "Observing Violations of Transitivity by Experimental Methods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 425-439, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Klaus M. Schmidt, 2009. "The Role of Experiments for the Development of Economic Theories," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 10(s1), pages 14-30, May.
    2. Denis Phan & Franck Varenne, 2010. "Agent-Based Models and Simulations in Economics and Social Sciences: From Conceptual Exploration to Distinct Ways of Experimenting," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 13(1), pages 1-5.
    3. Stefania Sitzia & Robert Sugden, 2011. "Implementing theoretical models in the laboratory, and what this can and cannot achieve," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(4), pages 323-343, December.
    4. Ana C. Santos, 2011. "Experimental Economics," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion to Recent Economic Methodology, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:12:y:2005:i:2:p:317-329. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.