Social preferences in the online laboratory: a randomized experiment
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Internet is a very attractive technology for the implementation of experiments, both in order to obtain larger and more diverse samples and as a field of economic research in its own right. This paper reports on an experiment performed both online and in the laboratory, designed to strengthen the internal validity of decisions elicited over the Internet. We use the same subject pool, the same monetary stakes and the same decision interface, and control the assignment of subjects between the Internet and a traditional university laboratory. We apply the comparison to the elicitation of social preferences in a Public Good game, a dictator game, an ultimatum bargaining game and a trust game, coupled with an elicitation of risk aversion. This comparison concludes in favor of the reliability of behaviors elicited through the Internet. We moreover find a strong overall parallelism in the preferences elicited in the two settings. The paper also reports some quantitative differences in the point estimates, which always go in the direction of more other-regarding decisions from online subjects. This observation challenges either the predictions of social distance theory or the generally assumed increased social distance in internet interactions.
KeywordsSocial experiment Field experiment Internet Methodology Randomized assignment
JEL ClassificationC90 C93 C70
This paper is a revised and augmented version of CES Working Paper n° 2012-70. We are grateful to Anne l’Hôte, Andrews-Junior Kimbembe and Ivan Ouss for their outstanding research assistance, as well as Maxim Frolov and Joyce Sultan for their help in running the laboratory experimental sessions. We are especially indebted to Yann Algan for his help during the development of this project. We gratefully thank the editor, Jacob Goeree, two anonymous referees and Guillaume Fréchette, Olivier L’haridon, Stéphane Luchini, David Margolis, Ken Boum My, Paul Pézanis-Christou, Dave Rand, Al Roth, Antoine Terracol, Laurent Weill and the members of the Berkman Cooperation group for helpful remarks and discussions. We also thank seminar participants at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and the 2012 North American Economic Science Association conference for their comments. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant). Jacquemet acknowledges the Institut Universitaire de France.
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