Experimental Economics

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 268–281

Do people behave in experiments as in the field?—evidence from donations


  • Matthias Benz
    • Institute for Empirical Research in EconomicsUniversity of Zurich
    • Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision-MakingFederal Reserve Bank of Boston

DOI: 10.1007/s10683-007-9192-y

Cite this article as:
Benz, M. & Meier, S. Exper Econ (2008) 11: 268. doi:10.1007/s10683-007-9192-y


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 are informative about behavior in field settings. One highly important question about the external validity of experiments is whether the same individuals act 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. While we find evidence that pro-social behavior is more accentuated in the lab, the data show that pro-social behavior in experiments is correlated with behavior in the field.


ExperimentsExternal validityMethodologyCharitable giving



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© Economic Science Association 2008