Do People Behave in Experiments as in the Field? Evidence from Donations

Posted: 14 Jul 2006

See all articles by Matthias Benz

Matthias Benz

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Stephan Meier

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Columbia Business School - Management

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 31, 2006

Abstract

Laboratory experiments are an important methodology in economics, especially in the field of behavioral economics. However, it is still debated to what extent results from laboratory experiments can be applied to field settings. One highly important question with respect to the external validity of experiments is whether individuals act the same in experiments as they would in the field. This paper presents evidence on how individuals behave in donation experiments and how the same individuals behave in a naturally occurring decision situation on charitable giving. The results show that behavior in experiments is correlated with behavior in the field. The results are robust to variations in the experimental setting, and the correlation between experimental and field behavior is between 0.25 and 0.4. We discuss whether this correlation should be interpreted as strong or weak and what consequences the findings have for experimental economics.

Keywords: Experiments, external validity, methodology, charitable giving

JEL Classification: C91, C93, D01, D64

Suggested Citation

Benz, Matthias and Meier, Stephan, Do People Behave in Experiments as in the Field? Evidence from Donations (January 31, 2006). FRB of Boston Working Paper No. 06-8, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=917191

Matthias Benz

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

Stephan Meier (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

600 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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