Startup Funds for Student Research in Experimental Economics

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipientsErik O. Kimbrough and Jasmina Arifovic, Department of Economics

Project team: A research assistant will be hired during the final semester of the program to collect, compile, and analyze data

Graduate student research funded

  • Giuseppe Danese, “Endocrine Correlates of Risk and Ambiguity”
  • Emanuel Krebs, “How Locus of Control Affects Learning Outcomes”

Timeframe: May 2012 to December 2015

Funding: $10,000

Courses addressed:

  • ECON 828 – Experimental Economics
  • ECON 832 – Computational Methods in Economics
  • ECON 911 – Applications in Experimental Economics

Description: Experimental economics is an important and quickly growing field in economics that allows researchers to test the predictions of economic theory against actual economic behaviour. Many students express an interest in pursuing experimental research, and the number of faculty currently engaged in experimental research is growing. As part the Economics Department’s master's and PhD programs in economics, students can take elective courses in ECON 828, ECON 832, and ECON 911.

In these courses students propose a research question and an experimental design meant to address the question through laboratory observation of economic behaviour. Currently many students develop innovative and interesting proposals, but are often unable to take their designs to the laboratory due to lack of funding. The purpose of our grant proposal is to request startup funding for the best of these proposals so that students can further develop and test their research questions. We will provide the most promising proposals with $1000 to perform the experiments the following semester while being registered in a directed reading course. Awarded students will be responsible for implementing and testing their research design in the laboratory.  Laboratory experiments in economics are incentivized so that research participants receive cash payments that depend on their decisions. The awarded funds will be used exclusively to pay the participants in the graduate students’ experiments.

Awarded graduate students will gain valuable experience designing and implementing a research program, including but not limited to developing experimental software and instructions, requesting ethics approval, performing experiments, analyzing data, and presenting results. Furthermore, the research projects that grow out of this grant can provide the foundation for students’ thesis research and will encourage valuable interaction with faculty who can provide advice and expertise and are likely to be asked to serve on thesis committees.

We will collect data to evaluate the effectiveness of the project, including the number of proposals that eventually receive external funding based on the trial runs we fund, the number of proposals that generate thesis research and the extent to which the program encourages faculty-student interaction (co-authorship, committee membership, etc.).

Questions addressed: Can direct support for student research in experimental economics facilitate student-faculty interaction and encourage academic achievement?

Knowledge sharing: Results will be shared with our department chair and graduate curriculum committee. We will also encourage awarded students to report their research results at the weekly Brown Bag Seminar series.  Final results of the program will be shared with the community of experimental economists at an annual meeting of the Economic Science Association.  The program has generated one excellent student research project: The Endocrine Correlates of Risk and Ambiguity, by Giuseppe Danese, Samuel Zilioli, and Neil Watson.  This related paper will be presented at the annual meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics in Lake Tahoe, Nevada (July 2014).