Inductive Metanomics: Economic Experiments in Virtual Worlds


  • Stephen A Atlas Tufts University, Economics Department



virtual worlds, metanomics, immersionist, augmentationist, experimentalist


This research investigates the viability of gaining insights about the real world through conducting economic experiments in virtual worlds. This paper reviews the relevant metanomics literature, discusses the challenges and benefits of establishing a virtual experimental economics lab, and outlines the major issues associated with applying data collected in virtual worlds to answer questions about real-world behavior. Virtual experimental infrastructure enables a dramatically larger and more diverse sample than typical lab-based experiments studying college students, which can enable a more robust analysis within a given budget. However, while anonymity, variance in perceived social norms, and a low prevailing wage make virtual worlds a compelling place to study social and behavioral research, these features simultaneously limit induction of virtual data to provide insight into similar phenomena outside virtual worlds.