Chapter 3: Experimental Economics
Ana C. Santos1 3.1 INTRODUCTION Not so long ago economics was considered to be a non-experimental science. This generalized perception has marked the experimental field of economics since its early years. In the 1950s, when experiments started to be carried out in a more systematic way, the profession did not see the purpose and the relevance of laboratory experiments. Given the skepticism towards experimentation, the pioneers concentrated on producing a variety of examples of their work before arguing for the relevance and practical usefulness of economics experiments.2 The strategy paid off. It contributed to the rapid stabilization of the field’s aims, standards, benchmarks and techniques, and as a result, to the fast growth of experimental economics research.3 In the early 1980s experimental economics had already turned into Kuhnian ‘normal’ science in that researchers had a set of established standards for guiding the selection of problem-situations that could be solved with available conceptual and instrumental tools. In 2002 its official recognition arrived with the award of the Nobel memorial prize to Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith for their pioneering experimental work, the former in the study of human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty, and the latter in the study of alternative market mechanisms.4 As is often the case with new fields of research, the methodological reflections on the experimental endeavor have lagged behind the rapid growth and the various uses and applications of experimental tools and results. Methodological debate might have been held back by the strong skepticism toward laboratory experimentation...
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