Experimental Economics

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 91–110

Method in Experiment: Rhetoric and Reality

  • Vernon L. Smith

DOI: 10.1023/A:1020330820698

Cite this article as:
Smith, V.L. Experimental Economics (2002) 5: 91. doi:10.1023/A:1020330820698


The methodological ideal of experimentalists, E, is easily stated: derive a testable hypothesis, H, from a well-specified theory, T; implement experiments with a design; implicitly in the latter are auxiliary hypotheses, A, that surface in the review/discussion of completed research reports (payoffs are 'adequate,' Ss are 'relevant,' instructions, context are 'clear,' etc.). We want to be able to conclude, if statistical test outcomes support not-H, that T is 'falsified.' But this is not what we do; rather we ask if there is a flaw in the test, i.e. not-A is supported, and we do more experiments. This is good practice—much better than the statistical rhetoric of falsificationism. Undesigned social processes allow E to accumulate technical and instrumental knowledge that drive the reduction of experimental error and constitute a more coherent methodology than falsificationism.

experimental economics science methodology 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vernon L. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Center for Economic ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityArlington