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Will Economics Become an Experimental Science?

Plott, Charles R. (1991) Will Economics Become an Experimental Science? Southern Economic Journal, 57 (4). pp. 901-919. ISSN 0038-4038.

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The expectations of the audience are rational because the answer I will give to the question posed by the title of this lecture is exactly what they expect. The answer is "yes." No doubt the expectations are also that I will not give a one-word lecture. A justification of such a radical answer is expected. Again, the expectations are rational. The natural way for me to explain my belief is to focus on the events that have facilitated and will continue to facilitate the broad application of laboratory experimental methods. Economics has been a non-laboratory science for several hundred years. Many have used economics as a classical example of a science in which laboratory methods are impossible. What has happened to make experimental methods applicable now and thereby change the way in which one can learn about economics? That question is the focus of this lecture. The sheer growth of papers, researchers, and laboratories suggests that something has happened. From the early 1970s the number of papers has grown from two or three per year to numbers approximating 100 per year. The number of researchers has grown from a small handful in the early 1970s to hundreds. The number of locations of the research, and the number of laboratories have grown from one or two to the range of 30 or 40. The growth is amazing but these are just trends. Such trends do not show the basic logic that is at work. The logic, the reasons for the activities, provides the proper support for the answer to the question posed in the title. The trends are simply manifestations of the logic and events.

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Additional Information:© 1991 Southern Economic Association. Presidential Address delivered at the sixtieth annual meeting of the Southern Economic Association, New Orleans, November 20, 1990. The research support of the National Science Foundation and the California Institute of Technology Laboratory for Experimental Economics and Political Science is gratefully acknowledged
Group:Social Science Working Papers
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Caltech Laboratory for Experimental Economics and Political ScienceUNSPECIFIED
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Social Science Working Paper758
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140303-154335142
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Official Citation:Will Economics Become an Experimental Science? Charles R. Plott Southern Economic Journal , Vol. 57, No. 4 (Apr., 1991) , pp. 901-919 Published by: Southern Economic Association Article DOI: 10.2307/1060322 Article Stable URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:44113
Deposited On:04 Mar 2014 16:31
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 06:14

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