Experimental Subjects are Not Different
Experiments using economic games are becoming a major source for the study of human social behavior. These experiments are usually conducted with university students who voluntarily choose to participate. Across the natural and social sciences, there is some concern about how this “particular” subject pool may systematically produce biased results. Focusing on social preferences, this study employs data from a survey experiment conducted with a representative sample of a city’s population (N=765). We report behavioral data from five experimental decisions in three canonical games: dictator, ultimatum and trust games. The dataset includes students and non-students as well as volunteers and nonvolunteers. We separately examine the effects of being a student and being a volunteer on behavior, which allows a ceteris paribus comparison between self-selected students (students*volunteers) and the representative population. Our results suggest that self-selected students are an appropriate subject pool for the study of social behavior.
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