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Do People Behave in Experiments as in the Field? – Evidence from Donations

  • Matthias Benz
  • Stephan Meier

Laboratory experiments are an important methodology in economics, especially in the field of behavioral economics. However, it is still debated to what extent results from laboratory experiments can be applied to field settings. One highly important question with respect to the external validity of experiments is whether the same individuals act in experiments as they would in the field. This paper presents evidence on how individuals behave in donation experiments and how the same individuals behave in a naturally occurring decision situation on charitable giving. The results show that behavior in experiments is correlated with behavior in the field. The results are robust to variations in the experimental setting, and the correlation between experimental and field behavior is between 0.25 and 0.4. We discuss whether this correlation should be interpreted as strong or weak and what consequences the findings have for experimental economics.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 248.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:248
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  1. Vernon L. Smith, 1962. "An Experimental Study of Competitive Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 322.
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  9. James Andreoni & Eleanor Brown & Isaac Rischall, 2000. "Charitable Giving by Married Couples: Who Decides and Why Does it Matter?," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2000-44, Claremont Colleges.
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  12. Jeffrey Carpenter & Erika Seki, 2005. "Do Social PreferencesIncrease Productivity? Field experimental evidence from fishermen in Toyoma Bay," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0515, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
  13. Todd L. Cherry & Peter Frykblom & Jason F. Shogren, 2002. "Hardnose the Dictator," Working Papers 02-06, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  14. Nicholas Bardsley, 2005. "Experimental economics and the artificiality of alteration," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 239-251.
  15. Sendhil Mullainathan & Richard H. Thaler, 2000. "Behavioral Economics," NBER Working Papers 7948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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