Is There Selection Bias in Laboratory Experiments? The Case of Social and Risk Preferences

38 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2011

See all articles by Blair Llewellyn Cleave

Blair Llewellyn Cleave

University of Melbourne - Centre for Actuarial Studies

Nikos Nikiforakis

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Robert Slonim

The University of Sydney; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

Laboratory experiments are frequently used to examine the nature of individual preferences and inform economic theory. However, it is unknown whether the preferences of volunteer participants are representative of the population from which the participants are drawn or whether they differ due to selection bias. We examine whether the social and risk preferences of participants in a laboratory experiment represent the preferences of the population from which they are recruited. To answer this question, we measured the preferences of 1,173 students in a classroom experiment. Separately, we invited all students to participate in a laboratory experiment. We find that the social and risk preferences of students who attend the laboratory experiment do not differ significantly from the preferences of the population from which they were recruited. Moreover, participation decisions based on social and risk preferences do not differ significantly across most subgroups, with the exception that female participants are on average less risk averse than female non-participants, and male participants are more risk averse than male non-participants.

Keywords: selection bias, laboratory experiments, external validity, social preferences, risk preferences

JEL Classification: C90, D03

Suggested Citation

Cleave, Blair Llewellyn and Nikiforakis, Nikos and Slonim, Robert, Is There Selection Bias in Laboratory Experiments? The Case of Social and Risk Preferences. IZA Discussion Paper No. 5488. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1765653

Blair Llewellyn Cleave (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Centre for Actuarial Studies ( email )

Melbourne, 3010
Australia

Nikos Nikiforakis

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/nnikiforakis/home

Robert Slonim

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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