Is there selection bias in laboratory experiments? The case of social and risk preferences

Blair L. Cleave, Nikos Nikiforakis, Robert Slonim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Laboratory experiments are frequently used to examine the nature of individuals' social and risk preferences and inform economic theory. However, it is unknown whether the preferences of volunteer participants are representative of the population from which the participants are drawn, or whether they differ due to selection bias. To answer this question, we measured the preferences of 1,173 students in a classroom experiment using a trust game and a lottery choice task. Separately, we invited all students to participate in a laboratory experiment using common recruitment procedures. To evaluate whether there is selection bias, we compare the social and risk preferences of students who eventually participated in a laboratory experiment to those who did not, and find that they do not differ significantly. However, we also find that people who sent less in a trust game were more likely to participate in a laboratory experiment, and discuss possible explanations for this behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-382
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Economics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • External validity
  • Laboratory experiments
  • Risk preferences
  • Selection bias
  • Social preferences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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