Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 73, Issue 3, pp 743–758 | Cite as

Subject Pools and Deception in Agricultural and Resource Economics Experiments

  • Timothy N. CasonEmail author
  • Steven Y. Wu


The use of student subjects and deception in experiments are two controversial issues that often raise concerns among editors and reviewers, which might prevent quality research from being published in agricultural and resource economics (ARE) journals. We provide a self-contained methodological discussion of these issues. We argue that field professionals are the most appropriate subjects for questions related to policy or measurement, and students are the most appropriate subjects for scientific research questions closely tied to economic theory. Active deception, where subjects are provided with explicitly misleading information, has been avoided in the mainstream economics discipline because it can lead to a loss of experimental control, lead to subject selection bias, and impose negative externalities on other researchers. Disciplinary ARE journals may want to abide by these norms against deception to maintain credibility. Interdisciplinary ARE journals may have more flexibility, although it is important to provide guidelines to avoid too much reviewer-specific variation in standards. For ARE researchers, we suggest employing a deception-free experimental design whenever possible because we know of no field in which deception is encouraged.


Laboratory experiments Field experiments Methodology 

JEL Classification

C90 Q10 Q30 Q50 



For helpful comments, we would like to thank (without implicating) participants at the CBEAR-MAAP and WCERE conferences, and Simanti Banerjee, Carola Grebitus, David Cooper, Guillaume Fréchette, Nick Hanley, Leah Palm-Forster, Marco Palma, Sharon Raszap, Stephanie Rosch, Matt Rousu, Christian Vossler, and two anonymous referees. Wu gratefully acknowledges financial support from USDA-NIFA HATCH project IND010580.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Krannert School of ManagementPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Agricultural EconomicsPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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