Advanced Experimental Methods in Economics and Relevant Social Sciences, 5 ETCS

Last changed: 05 April 2017

This course is given in collaboration with the Centre for Environmental and Resource Economics & the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. It serves as an introduction to experimental methods in economics and related social sciences, its tools, and some of the recent applications.

Spring course period: May 20 - June 14, 2017

Fall course period: September 9 - October 4, 2017 

Deadline for Application: Spring April 4, 2017. Fall May 30, 2017

Course description

This course provides an introduction to experimental economics, its tools, and some of the recent applications. For each lecture, there will be a discussion of state-of-the-art findings and the experimental techniques employed.

The course contents consist of three parts. The first part is an introduction to definitions and methodologies in experimental economics. There will be a discussion of the merits and limits of experiments, and the principles of running an experiment. A basic introduction to different types of experiments (e.g. field vs. laboratory) will also be provided. In the second part, there will be an overview of seminal findings in experimental research in the social sciences (e.g. field and laboratory experiments on public goods, imperfect markets, anti-social behaviour, carbon emissions trading, common-pool resource extraction). At the end of the lectures, there will be a short multiple-choice exam to evaluate the students’ learning of the concepts. In the final part of the course students will have more hands-on experience. As part of their examination to be detailed below, they will design their own mini experiments and formulate hypotheses specifically in their areas of interest.

Outline of topics:

I. Introduction to experimental methods

A. Economics as an experimental science

B. Strengths and weaknesses of the experimental method

C. Field vs. laboratory experiments

II. Social preferences

A. Reciprocity and intentions

B. Inequity aversion

C. Trust and trustwortiness

III. Public good games

A. Review of the voluntary contributions mechanism

B. Conditional vs. strategic cooperation

C. Institutions: centralized (e.g. taxes) vs. decentralized (e.g. rewards)

D. Institutional formation: voting vs. third-party regulation

IV. Anti-social behaviour

A. Anti-social punishment

B. Rent-seeking and conflict

V. Markets

A. Imperfect competition

B. Auctions

VI. Risk aversion and time preferences

VII. Environmental and natural resource management

A. Static and dynamic common-pool resource extraction

B. Climate change : emission permit markets vs. taxation

C. Pro-environmental behaviour, moral licensing, and emotions

VIII. Designing your own mini experiment 

Pre-requisites: This advanced course is aimed at PhD students, as well as early-stage postdoctoral researchers.  Target students are within the fields of economics and related subjects like psychology, political science, and sociology. Knowledge in basic (undergraduate level) microeconomics is assumed, as well as passed the introduction course in experimental methods in Economics and related social sciences.

Learning objective: The course aims to provide understanding of different tools and methodologies in experimental economics, and their applications. Moreover, it aims to provide knowledge that will help students propose experimental-related ideas that may become beneficial to their own areas of expertise.

Learning outcomes: Once students have completed this graduate-level course, they should:

  • Have basic knowledge of the tools and methodologies related to experimental design, as well as different types of experiments (i.e. field and laboratory)
  • Have an up-to-date knowledge of relevant literature in some subareas of experimental economics and related social sciences
  • Have a thorough understanding of how experimental methods can be used to complement and advance scientific knowledge of a topic
  • Have acquired hands-on experience by participating in classroom games.
  • Be able to evaluate existing experimental literature and discuss their merits and limitations
  • Have gained knowledge that will allow them to design a simple mini-experiment in their field of research.

Requirements for examination: 

Similar to the introduction course, the second half of the last day of lectures will conclude with a multiple-choice exam on the understanding of the lectures.

For this course, as a form of additional evaluation, each student will be required to write a critique on a published paper’s experimental design. The instructor will choose the assigned paper depending on the student’s field of specialization and interests. Students are expected to review the paper using a three-pronged approach: 1) identify the problem it aims to solve; 2) evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of its experimental design; and 3) suggest potential modifications and simple extensions by proposing a new experimental design. For this third part of their examination paper, the instructor will provide step-by-step advising to the students. Specific guidelines on how to propose their own mini-experiments will be given in advance.

Marking scale: Pass/Fail through a multiple-choice exam & a take-home paper with a passing threshold of 50%.

Other information: There is no tuition fee. The student is responsible for travel and accommodation expenses. It there are less than 5 students the department reserves the right to cancel the course. 


Main reference: Cassar, A. and D. Friedman. 2004. Economics lab : An intensive course in experimental economicsRoutledge. USA.

Alternative reference : Kagel, J. and A. Roth. 1995. Handbook of experimental economics. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press.

Selected supplementary materials:

  • Smith, V. 1994. Economics in the laboratory. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 113-131.
  • Smith, V. 2010. Theory and experiment : what are the questions ? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 73(1), 3-15.
  • Plott, C. 1991. Economics in 2090 : The views of an experimentalist. Economic Journal, 88-93.
  • Croson, R. 2005. The method of experimental economics. International Negotiation, 10(1), 131-148.
  • Levitt, S. and J. List. 2007. What do laboratory experiments measuring social preferences reveal about the real world ? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 153-174.
  • Camerer, C. 2011. The promise and success of lab-field generalizability in experimental economics : a critical reply to Levitt and List. SSRN 1977749.
  • Andersen, S., G. Harrison, M. Lau, and E. Rutstrom. 2008. Eliciting risk and time preferences. Econometrica, 76(3), 583-618.
  • Croson, R. and U. Gneezy. 2009. Gender differences in preferences. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(2), 1-27.
  • Fehr, E. and K. Schmidt. 1999. A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114, 817-868.
  • Guth, W. and M. Kocher. 2013. More than thirty years of ultimatum bargaining experiments : motives, variations, and a survey of recent literature. Jena Economic Research Papers.
  • List, J. 2007. On the interpretation of giving in dictator games. Journal of Political Economy, 115(3), 482-493.
  • Fehr, E. and S. Gaechter. 2000. Cooperation and punishment in public goods experiments. American Economic Review, 90(4), 980-994.
  • Chaudhuri, A. 2011. Sustanining cooperation in laboratory public goods experiments : a selective survey of literature. Experimental Economics, 14, 47-83.
  • Hermann, B., C. Thoni, S. Gaechter. 2008. Antisocial punishment across societies. Science, 319(7), 1362-1367.
  • Charness, G., D. Masclet, and M.C. Villeval. 2013. The dark side of competition for status. Management science, 60(1), 38-55.
  • Smith, V. 1962. An experimental study of competitive market behavior. Journal of Political Economy, 111-137.
  • Ahn, T., Ostrom, E. and J. Walker. 2011. Reprint of: A common-pool resource experiment with postgraduate subjects from 41 countries. Ecological Economics, 70(9), 1580-1589.
  • Ostrom, E. 1992. Institutions and common-pool resources. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 4(3), 243-245.
  • Ostrom, E. 2008. Institutions and the environment. Economic Affairs, 28(3) 24-31.
  • Ostrom, E. 2006. The value-added of laboratory experiments for the study of institutions and common-pool resources. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 61(2), 149-163.

Additional reference literature, esp. journal articles, will be provided before and during the course.