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Four Classic Public Goods Experiments: A Replication Study

Catherine Eckel (), Haley Harwell and Jose Castillo ()

A chapter in Replication in Experimental Economics, 2015, vol. 18, pp 13-40 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract This paper replicates four highly cited, classic lab experimental studies in the provision of public goods. The studies consider the impact of marginal per capita return and group size; framing (as donating to or taking from the public good); the role of confusion in the public goods game; and the effectiveness of peer punishment. Considerable attention has focused recently on the problem of publication bias, selective reporting, and the importance of research transparency in social sciences. Replication is at the core of any scientific process and replication studies offer an opportunity to reevaluate, confirm or falsify previous findings. This paper illustrates the value of replication in experimental economics. The experiments were conducted as class projects for a PhD course in experimental economics, and follow exact instructions from the original studies and current standard protocols for lab experiments in economics. Most results show the same pattern as the original studies, but in all cases with smaller treatment effects and lower statistical significance, sometimes falling below accepted levels of significance. In addition, we document a “Texas effect,” with subjects consistently exhibiting higher levels of contributions and lower free-riding than in the original studies. This research offers new evidence on the attenuation effect in replications, well documented in other disciplines and from which experimental economics is not immune. It also opens the discussion over the influence of unobserved heterogeneity in institutional environments and subject pools that can affect lab results.

Keywords: Replication; lab experiment; public goods; experimental economics; research transparency; C92; H41; D64; B40 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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