The 'materials' of experimental economics: technological versus behavioral experiments

Journal of Economic Methodology 14 (3):311-337 (2007)
In the natural sciences there is a general consensus on the epistemic value conferred by the participation of the ?material world? in the experimental process of knowledge production. This is no different in experimental economics. However, an inquiry into the epistemic role of the ?materials? of economics is still underdeveloped. The present paper is meant as a contribution to this inquiry. Two categories of experiments are identified according to the differentiated role of the ?materials? of economics. It is argued that the crucial ?material? of technological experiments is the market institution that is tailored in the laboratory to accomplish specific purposes. The crucial ?material? of behavioral experiments is instead the participation of the experimental subjects in the production of knowledge of individual and collective behavior. FCC spectrum auctions and ultimatum game experiments illustrate technological and behavioral experiments, respectively. General policy implications are also drawn from each kind of experiment.
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DOI 10.1080/13501780701562476
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