Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Economic experiments in virtual worlds: Framing, reciprocity & trust
by Atlas, Stephen A., M.A., Tufts University, 2008, 64; 1450772
Abstract (Summary)

This research investigates the viability of gaining insights about the real world through conducting economic experiments in virtual worlds. The core of this project was the replication of a classic economic experiment on trust and reciprocity and application of treatments to identify the impact of framing on these behaviors. To substantially reduce the cost of running the experiment, increase the sample size, and investigate a different pool of subjects than typical lab-based experiments studying college students, this study applied an innovative method of recruiting and motivating participants that uses the virtual game currency, Second Life Lindens (L$). The experiment itself consists of two phases: first, an established trust experiment methodology, conducted in the real world, was replicated within the virtual world of Second Life to quantify differences in the features of this subject pool. Then framing effects were determined by infusing the subjects' instructions with language intended to elicit cooperative or selfish behavior. Ultimately over 1,200 observations were collected, and the research provides evidence substantiating oft-cited concerns about generalizing findings from college student data to the entire population. This paper concludes with a more general discussion about the key methodological considerations in and potential of running experiments in virtual worlds.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Spolaore, Enrico
Commitee: Garman, David, Putterman, Louis
School: Tufts University
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: MAI 46/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Experimental/theoretical, Economic theory, Economics
Keywords: Economic experiments, Framing, Metanomics, Trust and reciprocity, Virtual worlds
Publication Number: 1450772
ISBN: 9780549521402
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