Enacting Dismal Science

Part of the series Perspectives from Social Economics pp 87-108


‘Doing’ Laboratory Experiments: An Ethnomethodological Study of the Performative Practice in Behavioral Economic Research

  • Juliane BöhmeAffiliated withBerlin Social Science Center


This chapter focuses on the research practice in a behavioral economics laboratory setting. The ethnomethodological perspective is used to direct the attention to the ethnomethods or performative practices generating the situation in the laboratory. I outlined some detailed field observations to illustrate how economists not only produce laboratory situations in accordance with their research methods and the scientific rules of their epistemic community. I also show how these situations are challenged, tested, and sustained by the equally performative behavior of compliant or non-compliant participants, by carrot and stick through punishment and payment. I will argue that economists not only study but also (re-)produce the economic rational actor model and its defining elements. The economists’ rational actor thus matches the practices of his creation and has to be viewed as an empirical phenomenon from the ethnomethodological procedural perspective of ‘doing.’