Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences

14 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2010

See all articles by Armin Falk

Armin Falk

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Date Written: January 2010

Abstract

Laboratory experiments are a widely used methodology for advancing causal knowledge in the physical and life sciences. With the exception of psychology, the adoption of laboratory experiments has been much slower in the social sciences, although during the last two decades, the use of lab experiments has accelerated. Nonetheless, there remains considerable resistance among social scientists who argue that lab experiments lack "realism" and "generalizability". In this article we discuss the advantages and limitations of laboratory social science experiments by comparing them to research based on nonexperimental data and to field experiments. We argue that many recent objections against lab experiments are misguided and that even more lab experiments should be conducted.

Keywords: controlled variation, field experiments, laboratory experiments

JEL Classification: C90, C91, C92, C93, D00

Suggested Citation

Falk, Armin and Heckman, James J., Lab Experiments are a Major Source of Knowledge in the Social Sciences (January 2010). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP7620. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1536339

Armin Falk (Contact Author)

briq - Institute on Behavior & Inequality

Schaumburg-Lippe-Stra├če 5-9
Bonn, 53113
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.briq-institute.org/

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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773-702-0634 (Phone)
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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