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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. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2000. "Fairness and Retaliation: The Economics of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 336, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. 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.
  3. Dean S. Karlan, 2005. "Using Experimental Economics to Measure Social Capital And Predict Financial Decisions," Working Papers 909, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  4. 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.
  5. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Oscar Volij, 2006. "Experientia Docet: Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 122247000000001050, www.najecon.org.
  6. 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.
  7. Dean Karlan, 2004. "Using experimental economics to measure social capital and predict financial decisions," Artefactual Field Experiments 00074, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Claude Meidinger & Jean-Louis Rullière & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2003. "Does Team-Based Compensation Give Rise to Problems When Agents Vary in Their Ability?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 253-272, November.
  9. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  10. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1999. "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Munich Reprints in Economics 20650, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  11. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Oscar Volij, 2009. "Field Centipedes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1619-35, September.
  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. Matthias Benz & Stephan Meier, 2006. "Do people behave in experiments as in the field?: evidence from donations," Working Papers 06-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  14. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3d04q5sm, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  15. John List & Steven Levitt, 2007. "Viewpoint: On the generalizability of lab behaviour to the field," Artefactual Field Experiments 00001, The Field Experiments Website.
  16. Steven D. Levitt & John A. List & David H. Reiley, 2010. "What Happens in the Field Stays in the Field: Exploring Whether Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(4), pages 1413-1434, 07.
  17. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  18. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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