The changing relationship between theory and experiment in economics

Philosophy of Science 75 (5):621-632 (2008)
Abstract
Until recently, economics was generally understood to be a nonexperimental science with a hypothetico‐deductive methodology. This article considers how the methodology of economics has changed with the spread of experimental methods. Initially, most experimental economists saw their work as testing pre‐existing theories. However, a method of systematic inductive enquiry in which theory plays a less central role is now evolving. This method is structured around the discovery and progressive refinement of regularities. “Exhibits”—experimental designs that generate significant regularities—are taking over some of the functions formerly performed by theoretical models. †To contact the author, please write to: School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK; e‐mail: r.sugden@uea.ac.uk.
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