econ 278

experimental economics

Professor Ryan Oprea, Winter/Spring 2024

Economics Department, UC Santa Barbara

The aim of this course is to introduce Ph.D. students to the major themes and motivations of modern experimental economics and to provide a strong foundation in experimental design and methodology.

vital information

the course

In this course we will trace the evolution of two prominent literatures -- the experimental markets literature and the experimental cooperation literature -- and use these stories to motivate the most important topics and open questions in modern experimental and behavioral economics.

One major goal of the course is to show how seemingly dissimilar topics in the field are in fact linked by common behavioral and psychological questions and  methodological principles (methodology).   Another major goal is to show how literatures advance from simple model testing to in-depth investigations concerning fundamentals of human behavior (mechanisms).

grades and assignments

Each five-week section will have two graded components:

1.  Referee Reports (50% of grade):  In each section, you will write referee reports on two of the papers assigned as readings in the section.  These referee reports should be 3-6 pages and should (i) summarize the paper and its motivation, (ii) judge the paper's merits, providing criticism where necessary and (iii) discuss interesting extensions of the work. 

2. Paper  (50% of grade): If you are taking all three sections, you will write one, 15-25 page proposal for an experiment.  You will submit a full draft at the end of Section 2 (by March 15) and briefly present it in class in the final week of Section 2.  You will then revise your idea and submit the completed paper  at the end of Section 3 (by May 10).

If you are taking only one section, you will submit a 3-5 page idea for an experiment by the end of the section.    In this case, the default is that this idea builds from an experiment from our readings (or from another paper you find interesting) and proposes an extension that deepens our understanding of the topic of the paper or answers a new, interesting questions.

section 1 (econ 278a)

1.  Testing Theories: Markets & Emergence

2.  How to Study a Behavioral Mechanism: Indirectly

3.  How to Study a Behavioral Mechanism: Directly

4 Induced Preferences:  The Harrison Critique

5.  How to Decompose a Behavioral Mechanism

section 2 (econ 278b)

6.  Cooperation & Matching

7. Public Goods:  Kindness & Confusion

8.  Bargaining & Social Preferences

9.  Infinitely Repeated Games

section 3 (econ 278c)

10.  Complexity & Procedures

11.  TBA

12.  TBA

13.  TBA

14.  TBA