June 2017, Year IX, n. 6
Why people behave like that?
Telos: ‘My passion is using field experiments to explore economic questions’. This is how you introduce your method of research. Testing economic theories may sound as a blasphemy. Could you please explain how it works and tell us how your fellow colleagues react to your approach?
John List: When you think about empirical work in the social sciences, the usual way that scientists do things is that they have an idea. They then race back to their office. They proceed to write down a theory. Then they download data that the world gives them and they beat up the data to say something causal based on the assumptions of their statistical model. The research approach in Freakonomics is a recent example of this style.
My research is fundamentally different. When I have an idea, I race back to my office and I think about how I can go out in the real world and use real people in real situations to be experimental subjects to field test my theory. ...more
John List has a passion. What an intriguing interview this must be! Well… His passion is using field experiments to explore economic issues. Disappointed? You should not be. In the mid-1990s List, who believed that experimental work had provided unique insights into human behaviour, began conducting experiments of his own, but in the real life rather than in the lab. ...more