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Naturally occurring markets and exogenous laboratory experiments: A case study of the winner's curse

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  • Glenn Harrison
  • John List

Abstract

There has been a dramatic increase in the use of experimental methods in the past two decades. An oft-cited reason for this rise in popularity is that experimental methods provide the necessary control to estimate treatment effects in isolation of other confounding factors. We examine the relevance of experimental findings from laboratory settings that abstract from the field context of the task that theory purports to explain. Using common value auction theory as our guide, we identify naturally occurring settings in which one can test the theory. In our treatments the subjects are not picked at random, as in lab experiments with student subjects, but are deliberately identified by their trading roles in the natural field setting. We find that experienced agents bidding in familiar roles do not fall prey to the winner's curse. Yet, when experienced agents are observed bidding in an unfamiliar role, we find that they frequently fall prey to the winner's curse. We conclude that the theory predicts field behavior well when one is able to identify naturally occurring field counterparts to the key theoretical conditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Glenn Harrison & John List, 2008. "Naturally occurring markets and exogenous laboratory experiments: A case study of the winner's curse," Framed Field Experiments 00266, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00266
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Plott, Charles R & Sunder, Shyam, 1982. "Efficiency of Experimental Security Markets with Insider Information: An Application of Rational-Expectations Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 663-698, August.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General

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