IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cir/cirbur/2008rb-01.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Experimental Economics: A Revolution in Understanding Behaviour

Author

Listed:
  • Jim Engle-Warnick
  • Sonia Laszlo

Abstract

What is the best compensation package to offer employees? How should choice among investments in pension plans be structured? Should a government use auctions to sell natural resources? Is it possible to design a market to reduce non-point source pollution in Quebec's watersheds? What holds people back from trying technologies that are completely new to them? Over the last two decades a revolution has occurred in the advancement of our ability to answer questions such as these. This revolution is called experimental economics. Experimental economics is the use of a controlled laboratory environment to understand decisions people make. In an economics experiment, people make decisions in a laboratory. They are paid according to the outcome of their decisions, and their decisions are analyzed to determine the effect of an institutional or environmental change that is being tested. Through the analysis of behaviour in controlled economics experiments, much has been learned about behaviour when outcomes are uncertain: for example, new notions about preferences toward risk and consumption over time have been developed. Much has also been learned about how people behave in strategic environments: for example, bidding behaviour in auctions is better understood, and the strategies people use as they learn how to trust each other have been observed. The purpose of this report is to describe the methodology of experimental economics and to detail its major uses. We will focus on the ability to measure behaviours in a wide variety of situations important to organizations. We will show, with examples from our own work, how feedback between the laboratory and the field can result in new understanding of decisions in an effort to affect the cycle of poverty in a developing country in fundamentally new ways. What is the best compensation package to offer employees? How should choice among investments in pension plans be structured? Should a government use auctions to sell natural resources? Is it possible to design a market to reduce non-point source pollution in Quebec's watersheds? What holds people back from trying technologies that are completely new to them? Over the last two decades a revolution has occurred in the advancement of our ability to answer questions such as these. This revolution is called experimental economics. Experimental economics is the use of a controlled laboratory environment to understand decisions people make. In an economics experiment, people make decisions in a laboratory. They are paid according to the outcome of their decisions, and their decisions are analyzed to determine the effect of an institutional or environmental change that is being tested. Through the analysis of behaviour in controlled economics experiments, much has been learned about behaviour when outcomes are uncertain: for example, new notions about preferences toward risk and consumption over time have been developed. Much has also been learned about how people behave in strategic environments: for example, bidding behaviour in auctions is better understood, and the strategies people use as they learn how to trust each other have been observed. The purpose of this report is to describe the methodology of experimental economics and to detail its major uses. We will focus on the ability to measure behaviours in a wide variety of situations important to organizations. We will show, with examples from our own work, how feedback between the laboratory and the field can result in new understanding of decisions in an effort to affect the cycle of poverty in a developing country in fundamentally new ways.

Suggested Citation

  • Jim Engle-Warnick & Sonia Laszlo, 2008. "Experimental Economics: A Revolution in Understanding Behaviour," CIRANO Burgundy Reports 2008rb-01, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirbur:2008rb-01
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.cirano.qc.ca/files/publications/2008RB-01.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    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:cir:cirbur:2008rb-01. 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: (Webmaster). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/ciranca.html .

    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.