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Laboratory Experiments as a Tool for Institutional Analysis and Design

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Wilson, Rick K.; Herzberg, Roberta
Conference: Workshop on the Workshop
Location: Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: June 16-18, 1994
Date: 1994
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1618
Sector: Theory
Subject(s): institutional analysis--IAD framework
experimental economics
Abstract: "This paper offers our own response to Vincent Ostrom's call for a research program. We are keenly aware of the need for institutional analysis and for practical advice in natural settings. At the same time, we are quite concerned with making certain that we understand the theoretical foundations of the IAD framework. We feel that essential elements of that framework be subject to rigorous empirical test--tests that allow us to be certain about our causal claims. To accomplish these ends, we rely on a different methodology from most. Our focus is on formal models of institutions. Our analysis is primarily analytic, although we turn to laboratory experiments to provide empirical corroboration or refutation for those models. "We feel that laboratory experiments are similar in kind to the social experiments called for by Vincent Ostrom. In these experiments we are able to build (largely) self-contained systems ~ complete with their own cultures and institutions. By systematically changing institutional components we can develop a sense of how institutional variations affect individual behavior and in what ways. However, given that there is literally an infinity of institutional variations (even with relatively simple institutions), we rely on theoretical models to guide us to those institutional features which are most promising for study. We have chosen a particular methodology with which to probe the boundaries of the IAD framework and with which to generate corroborating findings."

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