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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Paying for playing

Students often find it exciting to receive e-mail invitations to participate in Economic Science Laboratory experiments held in Eller College of Management, because of the cash rewards associated with them.

Communications senior Julie Levin began participating last semester in these experiments. She said she heard about them from a friend of hers who mentioned that it is an easy way to make some extra cash.

“”My first experiment I had to roll a die and the outcome of the number would tell me how much money I would receive at the end,”” Levin said. “”I ended up getting $50, which definitely made me want to come back.””

She added that it is great for college students who have a break in between classes and could use some extra pocket money.

“”The fact that it is going toward research benefits you and them,”” she said.

Anna Breman, assistant economics professor, has been running experiments for the past year and said she thinks it is really positive for the university when people sign up.

Her experiments emphasize behavioral economics, because she said it is important to understand how people behave when it comes to financial decision making, for instance why people invest in the wrong businesses.

“”When we recruit people we don’t want them to know what we expect from them, because then they might try to act differently and do what we want them to do,”” Breman said.

Once the research is complete, the goal is to publish the data in top economic research journals, she said.

“”In general, people signing up is fantastic,”” Breman said. “”They are helping to create research that is really moving economics forward and creating new knowledge.””

In order to run the experiments, the UA’s Institutional Review Board must approve them. This ensures the protection of human subjects involved in the research process.

Researchers must send in information about experiments they plan on running to the committee.

“”Economics is not considered evasive, so it tends to be quicker to get approved,”” Breman said.

It still usually takes a couple of months to get approved.

Participants in the experiment are required to sign a form of human subject approval.

According to the Experiment Development Policies and Procedures, experiment registration also requires a summary of experimental design, number of subjects, sessions and range of payoffs. The name of the funding institution must be clear in addition to other principal researchers.

Breman said researchers are usually able to fund the experiments and pay in cash due to research grants through the university and other grants outside the university such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. It depends on the research, but people tend to apply for both, she said.

Director of the lab Martin Dufwenberg said there are about 700 students who are signed up for the experiments.

It varies from semester to semester, he said, but students appear to show an interest in the lab.

Dufwenberg explained that in the 1980s and 1990s experiments were geared to understanding markets and the seller and buyer trade. This is still some of the focus, but in recent years, he said there has been a shift, emphasizing behavioral economics incorporating richer conceptions of individuals. This includes factors such as rationality and emotions when making financial decisions.

That has changed to some extent, he said. Experiments are now presented in a more “”game-like”” fashion involving partnership, relationships and bargaining.

“”Experiments have recently been used to shed light on wage formation in labor markets, with interesting implications for how to understand some causes of unemployment in times of recession,”” he said.

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