Conducting Interactive Experiments Online

34 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 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 Institute for Human Development Berlin

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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. It therefore provides 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 participant 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.

Keywords: experimental methodology, behavioral research, punishment, internet experiments, Amazon Mechanical Turk, public goods game

JEL Classification: C71, C88, C90, D71

Suggested Citation

Arechar, Antonio and Gachter, Simon and Molleman, Lucas, Conducting Interactive Experiments Online. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10517. Available at SSRN:

Antonio Arechar (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Simon Gachter

University of Nottingham ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679

Lucas Molleman

Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin ( email )

Lentzeallee 94
Berlin, D-14195

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