Free Tool to Run the Double Oral Auction Experiment

The double oral auction was one of the first experiments that Vernon Smith ran. He was expecting to find that the supply and demand model didn’t work. Instead, the results changed his life and led to a Nobel prize:

I am still recovering from the shock of the experimental results. The outcome was unbelievably consistent with competitive price theory. … But the result can’t be believed, I thought. It must be an accident, so I will take another class and do a new experiment with different supply and demand schedules. (Smith 1991)

I’ve run similar experiments in my principles class. The exercise is fun for the students and it’s always amazing to see how quickly the equilibrium is attained even though none of the participants has any idea what the equilibrium price and quantity are. The experiment can be run with paper and pencil or a laptop in a small class but that gets cumbersome for a larger class. Fortunately, there are some free tools.

Here’s Hampton and Johnson describing provides an online version of the double oral auction that works on all student Internet-enabled devices, including smartphones and iPads, without requiring students or instructors to download any special software. Results can be projected on a screen for debriefing. Instructors can set key parameters. A version with price controls can be setup. The use of the experiment is free for instructors and students. Students do not have to give their email address to play.

The design is the classic market experiment for introducing students to demand and supply. Joseph (1970) makes a strong case for the benefits of the “market experiment” in teaching based on experience with high school and undergraduate students. The original experiment was created by Smith (1962).

….After a trading session, instructors can debrief showing dynamically the history of bids, asks, trades, individual attribution of bids/asks (by clicking the chart), individual total earnings, and the underlying demand and supply curves.

Modern Principles of Economics introduces the supply and demand model and Smith’s classic experiment and thus is an ideal accompaniment.


Comments for this post are closed