Vibrant Subfield of Experimental Economics Continues to Grow at HSE

On November 6, the International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics at HSE University hosted the international conference, Experimental Economics in Russia – 2019. Laboratory Head Alexis Belianin spoke with HSE News Service about what experimental economics is and why it is a particularly dynamic area of research for scholars of economics.

The Experimental Economics in Russia Conference is just one of numerous significant international research forums the HSE laboratory has initiated and hosted. In the summer of 2019, the laboratory held an experimental economics summer school at HSE’s campus in St. Petersburg, and in 2020, the laboratory will be hosting the international annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Behavioural Economics (SABE). The conference will feature presentations on a variety of topics, ranging from cross-cultural studies and field experiments (a subfield recently highlighted by 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics) to experimental studies of framing, cheating, corruption, individual preferences, and, in particular, risk attitudes and nontransitivitiy of preferences.

Alexis Belianin,
Head of the the International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics

‘Experimental economics is a relatively new field aimed at testing economic theories and their projections to real life,’ explains Professor Belianin. ‘As such, it is a discipline which simultaneously serves three related purposes. First, by putting theoretical predictions under scrutiny, it transforms economic analysis into an ultimately scientific discipline. Second, it offers insights into causal relationships between variables relevant for economic decisions. Finally, it studies the actual behaviour of real people, and thereby collects first-hand information about what people really do under incentivized and theoretically unambiguous circumstances.’

The results of this kind of research, he adds, are not only telling in terms of human behaviour in general, but also striking for researchers themselves. ‘Researchers and participants learn a lot about themselves, as well as about their peers. This is what makes our field both scientifically grounded and exciting at the same time – a truly great combination!’

Professor Belianin’s current research focuses on cheating. He and colleagues have conducted what they believe to be the first study of bilateral cheating game in real time. ‘One interacting player may cheat or not, and her partner may either accept cheating behaviour, object it or, by contrast, push an honest partner towards cheating,’ he says. ‘It’s a challenging work, which, we believe, will shed new light onto the origins of honesty and cooperation – a highly relevant topic to many societies, including that of contemporary Russia.’

Like the subfield itself, HSE’s International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics has been quickly growing. Founded only in 2018, the lab has already acquired ‘international’ status due to its collaboration with colleagues in Germany, such as Heike Hennig-Schmidt (University of Bonn), Gari Walkowitz (Technical University of Munich), and many others. To learn more, click here.