Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

CeDEx 2013-03: Self-selection into Economics Experiments is Driven by Monetary Rewards


Laboratory experiments have become a wide-spread tool in economic research. Yet, there is still doubt about how well the results from lab experiments generalize to other settings. In this paper, we investigate the self-selection process of potential subjects into the subject pool. We alter the recruitment email sent to first-year students, either mentioning the monetary reward associated with participation in experiments; or appealing to the importance of helping research; or both. We find that the sign-up rate drops by two-thirds if we do not mention monetary rewards. Appealing to subjects’ willingness to help research has no effect on signup. We then invite the so-recruited subjects to the laboratory to measure a range of preferences in incentivized experiments. We do not find any differences between the three groups. Our results show that student subjects participate in experiments foremost to earn money, and that it is therefore unlikely that this selection leads to an over-estimation of social preferences in the student population.

Download the paper in PDF format

Now published in Experimental Economics entitled Self-selection into Laboratory Experiments: Pro-social Motives versus Monetary Incentives


Johannes Abeler and Daniele Nosenzo


View all CeDEx discussion papers | View all School of Economics featured discussion papers


Posted on Monday 1st April 2013

Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

Sir Clive Granger Building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 4763
Enquiries: suzanne.robey@nottingham.ac.uk
Experiments: cedex@nottingham.ac.uk