Is there selection bias in laboratory experiments? The case of social and risk preferences
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
Laboratory experiments are frequently used to examine the nature of individuals’ social and risk 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. To answer this question, we measured the preferences of 1,173 students in a classroom experiment using a trust game and a lottery choice task. Separately, we invited all students to participate in a laboratory experiment using common recruitment procedures. To evaluate whether there is selection bias, we compare the social and risk preferences of students who eventually participated in a laboratory experiment to those who did not, and find that they do not differ significantly. However, we also find that people who sent less in a trust game were more likely to participate in a laboratory experiment, and discuss possible explanations for this behavior.
- Bardsley, N., Cubitt, R., Loomes, G., Moffatt, P., Starmer, C., & Sugden, R. (2009). Experimental economics: rethinking the rules. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Berg, J., Dickhaut, J., & McCabe, K. (1995). Trust, reciprocity, and social history. Games and Economic Behavior, 10(1), 122–142. CrossRef
- Binswanger, H. P. (1981). Attitudes toward risk: theoretical implications of an experiment in rural India. Economic Journal, 91, 867–890. CrossRef
- Bohnet, I., & Zeckhauser, R. (2004). Trust, risk and betrayal. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 55(5), 467–484. CrossRef
- Cleave, B. L., Nikiforakis, N., & Slonim, R. (2010). Is there selection bias in laboratory experiments? (Research Paper No. 1106). Dept. Economics, University of Melbourne.
- Eckel, C., & Grossman, P. (2008). Forecasting risk attitudes: an experimental study using actual and forecast gamble choices. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 68(1), 1–17. CrossRef
- Falk, A., Meier, S., & Zehnder, C. (in press). Do lab experiments misrepresent social preferences? The case of self-selected student samples. Journal of the European Economic Association.
- Garbarino, E., & Slonim, R. (2009). The robustness of trust & reciprocity across a heterogeneous population. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 69(3), 226–240. CrossRef
- Harrison, G. W., Lau, M., & Rutström, E. (2009). Risk attitudes, randomization to treatment, and self-selection into experiments. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 70, 498–507. CrossRef
- Levitt, S. D., & List, J. A. (2007). What do laboratory experiments measuring social preferences reveal about the real world. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 153–174. CrossRef
- Slonim, R., Wang, C., Garbarino, E., & Merrett, D. (2012). Opting-in: participation biases in the lab (IZA Discussion Paper No. 6865).
- Is there selection bias in laboratory experiments? The case of social and risk preferences
Volume 16, Issue 3 , pp 372-382
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer US
- Additional Links
- Selection bias
- Laboratory experiments
- External validity
- Social preferences
- Risk preferences
- Industry Sectors
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Department of Economics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- 2. Max-Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn, Germany
- 3. Department of Economics, The University of Sydney and IZA, Sydney, Australia