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Experimental Economics may be said to have come of age in 2002 with the award to Vernon Smith of the Nobel Memorial Prize. As the Award Committee noted, economics had long been viewed as ‘a non-experimental science that had to rely exclusively on field data’, a view that was perceived by many as ‘an obstacle to the continued development of economics as a science’. Unless, it was argued, ‘controlled experiments could be carried out, tests of economic theory would remain restricted’ since, solely on the basis of field data, ‘it is difficult to decide whether and when a theory fails, and to pinpoint the aspects responsible for this failure. The feedback channel between theory and observation under controlled circumstances—where new experimental findings suggest new theories and new theories suggest new experiments—seemed to be largely unavailable to economics.’
However, as the Committee further noted, the establishment of ‘laboratory experiments as a tool in empirical economic analysis’—or Experimental Economics—has radically challenged this view. Indeed, the results and methods of the new experimental approach have led to some of the most exciting developments in economics, especially in those areas of microeconomics and game theory that have seen a particular concentration of experiments, such as public goods, coordination problems, bargaining behaviour, industrial organization, asset markets, auctions, and individual choice and decision-making. This now vast body of scholarly literature is characterized by a multiplicity of perspectives from within economics, and, indeed, across the social sciences as a whole. Furthermore, using the tools and concepts of Experimental Economics, new frontiers continue to be opened on a broad front, both at the deep theoretical and empirical level. The interfaces with developments in Behavioural Finance and Behavioural Game Theory, Computable and Computational Economics, Artificial Intelligence, and Agent-Based Approaches to Economics and Finance, and Computational Economic Dynamics are also the source of significant new research.
Designed to meet the need for an authoritative reference work to make sense of the subdiscipline’s enormous literary corpus and the continuing explosion in research output, Experimental Economics is the first title in a new Routledge Major Works series, New Trends and Frontiers in Economic Analysis. Edited and introduced by a leading scholar in the field, it is a four-volume collection of foundational and the best cutting-edge research.
The first volume in the collection (‘Classics, Foundations, and Individual Decision Making’) brings together the best work covering all the major themes that have come to define the scope of the subject. Volume II (‘Games, Bargaining, Auctions, and Voting’), meanwhile, collects the key research on the various ways in which experiments have been devised to study decision processes in the context of interactive behaviour. The work gathered in Volume II reflects, in particular, the importance of the Game Theoretic tradition in Experimental Economics.
Volume III (‘Markets, Mechanisms, Learning, and Information’) examines the most explicitly dynamic vision of Experimental Economics by grouping together the pioneering and frontier contributions in the study of markets (at the field and laboratory levels), in the design of experimentally implementable mechanisms, in the inference problems associated with—often in Bayseian settings—learning, and in the complex role of information asymmetries in market behaviour.
Finally, Volume IV is titled ‘Public Goods, Industrial Organization and Institutions’ and it brings together the best research on these perennially fascinating and productive research areas in Experimental Economics. This final volume completes a picture that begins in Volume I at an individual level, where institutional contexts are abstracted away. Here, the key contributions to Experimental Economics where such abstraction is impossible are brought together.
With comprehensive introductions to each volume, newly written by the editor, which place the collected material in its historical and intellectual context, Experimental Economics is an essential collection destined to be valued by scholars and students as a vital research resource.
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Girton College, Cambridge
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