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Free-Riding in the Lab and in the Field

  • Florian Englmaier
  • Georg Gebhardt

To investigate the external validity of laboratory results, we combine a public good experiment with three treatments in a field experiment. One treatment offers the opportunity to free-ride, the other two are placebo treatments. We compare results within subjects. In the free-riding treatment, subjects who contribute little in the lab are less productive. This effect is quantitatively as important as the effect of ability. The correlation between lab and field disappears in the two placebo treatments. We conclude that we can use lab experiments to learn about behavior in situations that share the game form but not necessarily the frame.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3612.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3612
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  1. Isaac, R. Mark & McCue, Kenneth F. & Plott, Charles R., . "Public Goods Provision in an Experimental Environment," Working Papers 428, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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  9. Matthias Benz & Stephan Meier, . "Do People Behave in Experiments as in the Field? – Evidence from Donations," IEW - Working Papers 248, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  10. John List & Steven Levitt, 2007. "Viewpoint: On the generalizability of lab behaviour to the field," Artefactual Field Experiments 00001, The Field Experiments Website.
  11. Fehr, Ernst & Leibbrandt, Andreas, 2011. "A field study on cooperativeness and impatience in the Tragedy of the Commons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1144-1155, October.
  12. Gachter, Simon & Fehr, Ernst, 1999. "Collective action as a social exchange," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 341-369, July.
  13. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, . "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocitys," IEW - Working Papers 040, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  14. John A. List, 2005. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," NBER Working Papers 11616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
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  17. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  18. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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