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Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences

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  • Falk, Armin
  • Heckman, James J

Abstract

Laboratory experiments are a widely used methodology for advancing causal knowledge in the physical and life sciences. With the exception of psychology, the adoption of laboratory experiments has been much slower in the social sciences, although during the last two decades, the use of lab experiments has accelerated. Nonetheless, there remains considerable resistance among social scientists who argue that lab experiments lack "realism" and "generalizability". In this article we discuss the advantages and limitations of laboratory social science experiments by comparing them to research based on nonexperimental data and to field experiments. We argue that many recent objections against lab experiments are misguided and that even more lab experiments should be conducted.

Suggested Citation

  • Falk, Armin & Heckman, James J, 2010. "Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences," CEPR Discussion Papers 7620, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7620
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    2. J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), 2007. "Handbook of Econometrics," Handbook of Econometrics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 6, number 6b.
    3. Friedman,Daniel & Sunder,Shyam, 1994. "Experimental Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521456821.
    4. O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), 1999. "Handbook of Labor Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 3, number 3.
    5. J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), 1999. "Handbook of Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1, December.
    6. J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), 2007. "Handbook of Econometrics," Handbook of Econometrics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 6, number 6a.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    controlled variation; field experiments; laboratory experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D00 - Microeconomics - - General - - - General

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