A long history of research in experimental economics
The Experimental Economics Interdisciplinary Research Group (EEIR) provides researchers an umbrella protocol along with a common subject pool for human participants, with many opportunities for students to become involved. The research is tied together by a common experimental research method using real money payments to incentivize behavior in economic situations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Economists study how value (derived, for example, through goods, services, and wealth) is produced, distributed, and consumed. This requires an understanding of how people and resources interact through institutions, governments, and other systems in economic settings. As a science, economics is driven by theory and data. Theories concern how people and institutions are expected to behave (i.e., what should happen). Data comes from observing what actually happens.
Instead of relying on naturally occurring data, experimental economists generate data in a controlled, or "laboratory," setting in much the same way physical scientists conduct laboratory research. We create real economic interactions by paying subject based on outcomes of their interactions in a controlled economic situation.
Experimental economics attempts to understand how people actually behave and why. When behavior differs from theory, experimental economics can help revise theories of economic behavior. Policy makers often look to experiments to study effects of policies before they actually implement policies that might impact the entire economy. The same ideas hold for business decisions. Experiments can provide a low cost way to learn how workers, customers, or profits might react to proposed changes or simply to understand why they behave the way they do.
There is an important educational side benefit to experimental economics: subjects in experiments learn about research in general and about behavior in the specific economic situations studied. This provides an opportunity for students to "learn by doing." This educational component is sufficiently valuable that experimental economics exercises are often used in classes. There are textbooks and, sometimes, courses devoted entirely to it.
A number of researchers are working on a variety of areas within EEIR. The easiest way to see what is going on is to go to the researchers' own websites.