Conducting Interactive Experiments Online

32 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2016 Last revised: 30 Jan 2017

See all articles by Antonio Arechar

Antonio Arechar

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Simon Gaechter

University of Nottingham; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Lucas Molleman

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development

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Date Written: January 29, 2017


Online labor markets provide new opportunities for behavioral research, but conducting economic experiments online raises important methodological challenges. This particularly holds for interactive designs. In this paper, we provide a methodological discussion of the similarities and differences between interactive experiments conducted in the laboratory and online. To this end, we conduct a repeated public goods experiment with and without punishment using samples from the laboratory and the online platform Amazon Mechanical Turk. We chose to replicate this experiment because it is long and logistically complex, providing a good case study for discussing the methodological and practical challenges of online interactive experimentation. We find that basic behavioral patterns of cooperation and punishment in the laboratory are replicable online. The most important challenge of online interactive experiments is subject dropout. We discuss measures for reducing dropout and show that, for our case study, dropouts are exogenous to the experiment. We conclude that data quality for interactive experiments via the Internet is adequate and reliable, making online interactive experimentation a valuable complement to laboratory studies.

Suggested Citation

Arechar, Antonio and Gachter, Simon and Molleman, Lucas, Conducting Interactive Experiments Online (January 29, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Antonio Arechar (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

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Simon Gachter

University of Nottingham ( email )

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Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Lucas Molleman

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development ( email )

Lentzeallee 94
Berlin, D-14195

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