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Social preferences in the online laboratory: A randomized experiment

Internet is a very attractive technology for experiments implementation, both in order to reach more diverse and larger samples and as a field of economic research in its own right. This paper reports on an experiment performed both online and in the laboratory, designed so as to strengthen the internal validity of decisions elicited over the Internet. We use the same subject pool, the same monetary stakes and the same decision interface, and randomly assign two group of subjects between the Internet and a traditional University laboratory to compare behavior in a set of social preferences games. This comparison concludes in favor of the reliability of behaviors elicited through the Internet. Our behavioral results contradict the predictions of social distance theory, as we find that subjects allocated to the Internet treatment behave as if they were more altruistic, more trusting, more trustworthy and less risk averse than laboratory subjects. Those findings have practical importance for the growing community of researchers interested in using the Internet as a vehicle for social experiments and bear interesting methodological lessons for social scientists interested in using experiments to research the Internet as a field.

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File URL: ftp://mse.univ-paris1.fr/pub/mse/CES2012/12070.pdf
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Paper provided by Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne in its series Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne with number 12070.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mse:cesdoc:12070
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  1. V. Anderhub & R. Müller & C. Schmidt, 1998. "Design and Evaluation of an Economic Experiment via the Internet," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1998,69, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
  2. Horton, John Joseph & Rand, David Gertler & Zeckhauser, Richard Jay, 2010. "The Online Laboratory: Conducting Experiments in a Real Labor Market," Scholarly Articles 4448876, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Ariel Rubinstein, 2006. "Instinctive and Cognitive Reasoning: A Study of Response Times," Working Papers 2006.36, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  4. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2011. "Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants, And Behavioral Consequences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 522-550, 06.
  5. Thomas Chesney & Swee-Hoon Chuah & Robert Hoffmann, 2007. "Virtual world experimentation: An exploratory study," Occasional Papers 21, Industrial Economics Division.
  6. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter & Ernst Fehr, . "Are People Conditionally Cooperative? Evidence from a Public Goods Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 016, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  7. Catherine Eckel & Rick Wilson, 2006. "Internet cautions: Experimental games with internet partners," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 53-66, April.
  8. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  9. Charness, Gary & Haruvy, Ernan & Sonsino, Doron, 2007. "Social distance and reciprocity: An Internet experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 88-103, May.
  10. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1449-1475, December.
  11. Paul Resnick & Richard Zeckhauser & John Swanson & Kate Lockwood, 2006. "The value of reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 79-101, June.
  12. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Shavit, Tal & Sonsino, Doron & Benzion, Uri, 2001. "A comparative study of lotteries-evaluation in class and on the Web," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 483-491, August.
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