As conducting various types of experiments becomes a more popular component of economics research, understanding the experimental method becomes more important for policymakers and others concerned with economics issues. In Treating the Field as a Lab: A Basic Guide to Conducting Economics Experiments for Policymaking, Angelino Viceisza addresses this need by explaining some basic principles on how to conduct lab-like field experiments and describing the strengths and weaknesses of these types of experiments.
Lab-like field experiments have primarily been conducted for four
- To test theories
- To measure what have been considered “unobservable” characteristics
- To disentangle heterogeneous effects of experiment treatments
- To demonstrate economics concepts
Unlike pure lab experiments, whose subjects are typically university students, lab-like field experiments involve people in the working world, such as farmers, traders, or firm managers, who take time from their daily lives to participate. Nevertheless, these experiments are conducted under more controlled conditions than a pure field experiment that might test people’s everyday behavior. Being less complicated than such field experiments, lab-like field experiments serve as good introductions to the experimental method while at the same time providing insights into more complex tests. Treating the Field as a Lab provides examples of lab-like field experiments, explains their basic rationale and methods, reviews the role of game theory in conducting these experiments, and discusses the challenges in deriving public policies from these experiments.