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The Social Science Experimental Laboratory (SSEL) is an internationally recognized hub for experimental research. Founded by Professor Rebecca Morton, the SSEL is at the center of a vibrant community of economists, political scientists, and sociologists who use experimental methods in their research and who exchange scientific ideas on cutting-edge research in seminars and workshops.
Experimental methods, first introduced in economics over half a century ago by pioneers such as Vernon Smith and Reinhard Selten, have now moved into the mainstream of social science research. Experiments provide a means of testing theory in a controlled setting and uncovering new empirical facts about human behavior. In addition, the experimental lab can serve as a “wind tunnel” to test new policies for enhancing social welfare before their implementation in the field. Data from laboratory experiments provides the foundation for the development of new, more descriptively accurate, theories of human behavior.
Experimental social science remains a dynamic fast-moving field of research. Recent years have seen the rise of “behavioral” economics, which seeks to account for the fact that human behavior is not always fully rational: humans do not have perfect foresight of the consequences of their actions, they exhibit biases in their decision making (e.g., present bias), they have cognitive limitations, or they simply systematically make mistakes. Even more recently, and accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, online experiments have become important. Online experiments can be conducted at a scale and scope that would be infeasible to replicate in the standard experimental laboratory.