Experimental Methods: A Primer for Economists

Daniel Friedman and Shyam Sunder

Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN No. 0-521-45068-3 (1994)

Laboratory experiments have become an important source of data in economics. Hundreds of journal articles, dozens of surveys, and several books report what laboratory experiments have helped economists discover about commodity and asset markets, industrial organization, committees and voting, laws and rules, individual choice, and many other fields. Until now, existing literature has provided little guidance to the researcher about the actual design and conduct of economic experiments.

This primer is the first readily accessible, self-contained summary of experimental methods and technique for students and researchers in economics. The authors touch on broad conceptual issues and discuss the basic principles but emphasize concrete procedures for successful experimentation: picking an interesting and important problem, creating a laboratory environment, choosing and motivating subjects, designing and conducting experiments, collecting and analyzing the data, and reporting the results. It will help beginners avoid making mistakes in organizing an experiment and to increase the experiment’s scientific returns.

The authors succeed triumphantly in their chosen aim: providing helpful advice on all aspects of setting up, designing, implementing, and analyzing experiments. What is particularly satisfying is that the advice is not merely theoretical and abstract, but is based upon, and illustrated by, much experimental evidence. The book will prove to be of practical value to economists carrying out experiments, whether they are novices or semi-experts. – John D. Hey, Experiments in Economics