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Handbook of Experimental Economic Methodology$
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Guillaume R. Fréchette and Andrew Schotter

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780195328325

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195328325.001.0001

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What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?

What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?

Chapter:
(p.207) Reprint: What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal About the Real World?
Source:
Handbook of Experimental Economic Methodology
Author(s):

Steven D. Levitt

John A. List

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195328325.003.0015

The chapter starts by presenting a simple model in which utility maximization is influenced not only by wealth-maximization, but also by an individual's desire to make the right moral choice. It then looks at the empirical evidence. The bulk of the discussion is on the class of experiments that is believed to measure pro-social preferences. The chapter then provides a summary of the most popular games of this type. It then looks at the extent of the differences between what is observed in laboratory experiments and what is seen in naturally occurring environments, and explores how these differences affect the generalizability of experimental results outside the lab. The chapter concludes that, just as is the case with naturally-occurring data, great caution is needed when attempting to generalize lab results out of sample.

Keywords:   experimental economics, lab experiments, social behavior, generalizability, wealth-maximization, moral choice, pre-social preferences, experimental results

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