Using Laboratory Experiments to Study Law and Crime


36 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2010 Last revised: 19 Aug 2010

See all articles by Christine Horne

Christine Horne

Washington State University

Heiko Rauhut

University of Zurich

Date Written: July 20, 2010


The 19th and 20th centuries produced breakthroughs in physics, chemistry, and the biological sciences. Laboratory research played an important role in the rapid advances made in these fields. Laboratory research can also contribute progress in the social sciences and, in particular, to law and criminology. To make this argument, we begin by discussing what laboratory experiments can and cannot do. We then identify three issues in the criminological and legal literature: why violence is higher in the southern United States than in the North, the relation between the severity of punishment and crime, and the expressive effects of law. We describe the relevant data from laboratory experiments and discuss how these data complement those gained through other methods.

Keywords: Laboratory experiments, experimental methods, law, crime

Suggested Citation

Horne, Christine and Rauhut, Heiko, Using Laboratory Experiments to Study Law and Crime (July 20, 2010). CCSS-10-010. Available at SSRN: or

Christine Horne

Washington State University ( email )

Wilson Rd.
College of Business
Pullman, WA 99164
United States

Heiko Rauhut (Contact Author)

University of Zurich ( email )

Andreasstrasse 15
8050 Zurich, CH-8050
+41 44 635 23 54 (Phone)


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