An overview of the ExECUTE laboratory

The ExECUTE laboratory was set up in the summer of 2002 and first used for experiments and teaching in the winter semester of 2002/03. It is located in the rooms 028 and 031 at the Institute of Management and Economics at 2, Julius-Albert-Straße.

In all, there are 20 PC workplaces available for carrying out experiments in these two rooms. The individual workplaces are partitioned off from one another.

Experimental economics

One of the objectives of experimental research is to be able to draw conclusions about the behaviour of people in real economic situations by observing the behaviour of real test subjects in the artificial world of a laboratory. As predictions based on economic theory often deviate from the behaviour actually observed, such experiments make it possible to gain a better understanding of individual decision behaviour. Using the data gained in the laboratory, existing theories can be checked and further developed.

Experimental economics represents a discipline which is relatively new in comparison with other economic research fields. It was not until the early 1960s that its importance was recognised, when Vernon Smith showed that in so-called double auctions market clearing at a balanced price was an extremely good indicator of market dynamics.

Despite its initial success, experimental research in economic science has only played a minor role for two decades. Only in the last few years has this method increasingly penetrated economic theory. This niche existence finally came to an end, when Vernon Smith was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002 and the field became recognised as an important part of economic research. 

Research direction and objectives

The focuses of research at ExECUTE lie in the field of the experimental examination of human decision behaviour, the analysis of different institutional regimes as well as the theory of the firm.

Computer-based experiments in behaviour research

The advantage of computer-based experiments is, in particular, the easy and reliable collection of data. By using computers, error sources can be minimised and experiments can be carried out significantly faster thus making it possible to collect more comprehensive data than with the “classical” paper and pencil experiments performed in lecture halls. In addition, in a computer laboratory it is also possible to conduct considerably more complex and computationally intensive experiments.

As it is extremely time-consuming to create one’s own laboratory software, ExECUTE employs predominantly “zTree” software, which was developed by Urs Fischbach at the University of Zurich and is also to be found at respective institutions worldwide. A further software system called TEEC is available for carrying out experiments. It was developed in Clausthal and allows communication between the students in the laboratory.


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