Business Economics and Public Policy Papers

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Handbook of Experimental Economic Methodology




This chapter comments on the papers of Levitt and List and of Camerer. It explains why for most laboratory studies it is only relevant whether the qualitative or directional results of the study are externally valid. It argues that laboratory studies are conducted to identify general principles of behavior and therefore promise to generalize. It then examines whether laboratory experiments live up to this promise. It discusses the extent to which qualitative results persist outside of the lab and how we should respond when they do not. The chapter concludes by arguing that the lab and field methodologies are highly complementary and that both provide important insights to the understanding of economics.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in "Handbook of Experimental Economic Methodology" following peer review. The version of record [Kessler, Judd B. and Lise Vesterlund. “The External Validity of Laboratory Experiments Methods of Modern Experimental Economics", Guillaume Frechette and Andrew Schotter, Oxford University Press.] is available online at:


experimental economics, laboratory experiments, field experiments, qualitative results, quantitative results

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 27 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.