Skip to main content

Of Rats and Economists

  • Terrence McDonough (a1)

When the article “Experimental Confirmation of the Existence of a Giffen Good,” authored by Raymond C. Battalio, John H. Kagel, and Carl A. Kogut, appeared in 1991 in the American Economic Review it represented the culmination of two separate and seemingly unrelated traditions in the economics literature. The first is a now-venerable tradition of attempting to locate Giffen behavior in the real world. The second is a more truncated modern tradition of animal experimentation in economics. In their article, Battalio et al. combine these traditions through setting out to discover Giffen behavior in a laboratory setting using white rats as experimental subjects. The authors (p. 962) describe their experimental procedure:

Subjects were placed in an experimental chamber for approximately three hours each day, during which time they received their entire daily liquid food ration … A rat obtained quinine and root beer by pressing either of two levers mounted on a wall in the experimental chamber … Income was controlled by restricting the number of lever presses that would result in obtaining liquid. Prices were changed by varying the amount of liquid obtained at each lever press.

Hide All
Adams, D. 1979. The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. London: Pan.
Amacher, R. and Ulbrich, H.. Principles of Microeconomics, 5th edition. Cinncinati, OH: South-Western Publishing.
Battalio, R., Dwyer, G., and Kagel, J.. 1986. “Tests of Some Alternative Theories of Individual Choice Behavior.” In Slottje, Daniel, ed., Advances in Econometrics, Vol. 5. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp. 330.
Battalio, R., Dwyer, G., and Kagel, J.. 1987. “Tests of Competing Theories of Consumer Choice and the Representative Consumer Hypothesis.” Economic Journal 97 (388): 842–56.
Battalio, R., Green, L., and Kagel, J.. 1981. “Income-Leisure Tradeoffs of Animal Workers.” American Economic Review 71 (4): 621–32.
Battalio, R., and Kagel, J.. 1985. “Consumption-Leisure Tradeoffs of Animal Workers: Effects of Increasing and Decreasing Marginal Wage Rates in a Closed Economy Experiment.” In Smith, Vernon L., ed., Research in Experimental Economics, Vol. 3. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp. 130.
Battalio, R., Kagel, J. and Green, L.. 1979. “Labor Supply Behavior of Animal Workers: Towards an Experimental Analysis.” In Smith, Vernon L., ed., Research in Experimental Economics, Vol. 1. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp. 231–53.
Battalio, R., Kagel, J., and Kogut, C.. 1991. “Experimental Confirmation of the Existence of a Giffen Good.” American Economic Review 81 (4): 961–70.
Battalio, R., Kagel, J., and MacDonald, D.. 1985. “Animal's Choices over Uncertain Outcomes: Some Initial Experimental Results.” American Economic Review 75 (4): 597613.
Battalio, R., Kagel, J., Rachlin, H. and Green, L.. 1981. “Commodity Choice Behavior with Pigeons as Subjects.” Journal of Political Economy 89 (1): 6791.
Browning, E. and Browning, J.. 1992. Microeconomic Theory and Applications, 4th edition. New York: Harper Collins.
Cabanac, M. 1992. “Pleasure: The Common Currency.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 155 (2): 173200.
Castro, B. and Weingarten, K.. 1970. “Towards Experimental Economics.” Journal of Political Economy 78 (3): 598607.
Cody, M. 1974. “Optimization in Ecology.” Science 183 (03 22): 1156–64.
Cooter, R. and Rappoport, Peter. 1984. “Were the Ordinalists Wrong About Welfare Economics?Journal of Economic Literature 22 (2): 507–30.
Covich, A. 1972. “Ecological Economics of Seed Consumption by Peromyscus.” Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 44: 7193.
Culyer, A. 1985. Economics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Dawkins, Richard. 1996. God's Utility Function. London: Phoenix.
Dolan, E. and Lindsay, D.. 1991. Microeconomics, 6th edition. Orlando, FL: Dryden Press.
Dooley, P. 1983. “Consumer's Surplus: Marshall and his Critics.” Canadian Journal of Economics 16 (1): 2638.
Dreze, J. and Sen, A.. 1989. Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Dwyer, G. and Lindsay, C.. 1984. “Robert Giffen and the Irish Potato.” American Economic Review 74 (1): 188–92.
Ferguson, C., and Maurice, S.. 1974. Economic Analysis. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin.
Green, L., Kagel, J., and Battalio, R.. 1982. “Ratio Schedules of Reinforcement and Their Relationship to Economic Theories of Labor Supply.” In Commons, M., Herrnstein, R., and Rachlin, H., eds., Quantitative Analyses of Behavior: Matching and Maximizing Accounts, Vol. 2. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.
Green, L., Kagel, J., and Battalio, R.. 1987. “Consumption-Leisure Tradeoffs in Pigeons: Effects of Changing Marginal Wage Rates by Varying Amount of Reinforcement.” Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 47 (1): 1728.
Hargreaves Heap, Shaun and Veroufakis, Yanis. 1995. “Experimenting with Neoclassical Economics: A Critical Review of Experimental Economics.” In Rima, Ingrid H., ed., Measurement, Quantification and Economic Analysis: Numeracy in Economics. London: Routledge.
Hirschleifer, J. 1977. “Economics from a Biological Viewpoint.” Journal of Law and Economics 20 (1): 152.
Hodgson, G. 1995. Economics and Biology. Aldershot: Edward Elgar.
Hursh, S. 1980. “Economic Concepts for the Analysis of Behavior.” Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior 34 (2): 219–38.
Hursh, S. 1984. “Behavioral Economics.” Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior 42 (3): 435–52.
Hursh, S. and Bauman, R.. 1987. “The Behavioral Analysis of Demand.” In Green, L. and Kagel, J. H., eds., Advances in Behavioral Economics, Vol 1. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, pp. 166–84.
Kagel, J. 1987. “Economics According to the Rats (and pigeons too): What Have We Learned and What Can We Hope to Learn?” In Roth, A., ed., Laboratory Experimentation in Economics: Six Points of View. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 99130.
Kagel, J. 1995. “Economic Choice Theory and Animal Behavior.” In Wolters, G. and Lennox, J., eds., Concepts, Theories and Rationality in the Biological Sciences. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Kagel, J. H. and Battalio, R. 1980. “Token Economy and Animal Models for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.” In Kmenta, J. and Ramsay, J., eds., Evaluation of Econometric Models. New York: Academic Press, pp. 379402.
Kagel, J., Battalio, R., and Green, L.. 1995. Economic Choice Theory: An Experimental Analysis of Animal Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kagel, J., Battalio, R., Green, L. and Rachlin, H.. 1980. “Consumer Demand Theory Applied to Choice Behavior of Rats.” In Staddon, J., ed., Limits to Action: The Allocation of Individual Behavior. New York: Academic Press.
Kagel, J., Battalio, R., Rachlin, H., Green, L., Basmann, R., and Klemm, W.. 1975. “Economic Studies of Consumer Demand Behavior Using Laboratory Animals.” Economic Inquiry 13 (03): 2238.
Kagel, J., Battalio, R., Rachlin, H., and Green, S.. 1981. “Demand Curves for Animal Consumers.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 46 (1): 115.
Kagel, J., Dwyer, G., and Battalio, R.. 1985. “Bliss Points vs. Minimum Needs: Tests of Competing Motivational Processes.” Behavioral Processes 11 (1): 6177.
Kagel, J. and Green, L.. 1986. “Intertemporal Choice Behavior: Evaluation of Economic and Psychological Models.” In Green, L. and Kagel, J., eds., Advances in Behavioral Economics, Vol. 1. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, pp. 166–84.
Kagel, J., Green, L. and Caraco, T.. 1986. “When Foragers Discount the Future: Constraint or Adaptation.” Animal Behaviour 34 (1): 271–83.
Kagel, J., MacDonald, D., and Battalio, R.. 1990. “Tests of ‘Fanning Out’ of Indifference Curves: Results from Animal and Human Experiments.” American Economic Review 80 (4): 912–21.
Kagel, J. and Roth, A.. 1995. Handbook of Experimental Economics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kinealy, C. 1997. “Food Exports from Ireland 1846–47.” History Ireland 5 (1) 3236.
Kohler, H. 1990. Intermediate Microeconomics: Theory and Applications, 3rd edition. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman and Company.
Landsberg, S. 1992. Price Theory and Applications, 2nd edition. Forth Worth, TX: Dryden Press.
Lea, S. 1981. “Animal Experiments in Economic Psychology.” Journal of Economic Psychology 1: 245–71.
Lea, S., Webley, P., and Young, B., eds. 1992. New Directions in Economic Psychology: Theory, Experiment and Application. Aldershot: Edward Elgar.
Lewontin, R. 1977. “Adaptation.” In The Encyclopedia Einaudi. Torino: Giulio Einaudi Edition.
Lewontin, R. 1978. “Fitness, Survival, and Optimality.” In Horn, D., Mitchell, R., and Stairs, G., eds., Analysis of Ecological Systems. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.
Lucas, R. 1986. “Adaptive Behavior and Economic Theory.” In Hogarth, R. and Reder, M., eds., Rational Choice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
MacDonald, D., Kagel, J. and Battalio, R.. 1991. “Animals Choices Over Uncertain Outcomes: Further Experimental Results.” Economic Journal 101 (408): 1067–84.
Mansfield, E. 1997. Microeconomics, 9th ed.New York: Norton.
McDonough, T. 1998. “A Million of the Irish Toilers: Marxian Perspectives on the Great Irish Famine.” Review of Radical Political Economics 30 (3): 5663.
McDonough, T. and Eisenhauer, J.. 1995. “Sir Robert Giffen and the Great Potato Famine: A Discussion of the Role of a Legend in Neoclassical Economics.” Journal of Economic Issues 29 (3): 747–59.
McFarland, D. and Houston, A.. 1981. Quantitative Ethology: The State Space Approach. London: Pitman.
Mirowski, Philip. 1989. More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mirowski, Philip. 1994. “The Realms of the Natural.” In Mirowski, Philip, ed., Natural Images in Economic Thought: “Markets Read in Tooth and Claw.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Morgan, P. and Tustin, D.. 1992. “The Perception and Efficiency of Labour Supply Choices by Pigeons.” Economic Journal 102 (414): 1134–48.
O'Grada, C. 1994. Ireland: A New Economic History 1780–1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pierce, G. and Ollason, J.. 1987. “Eight Reasons Why Optimal Foraging Theory is a Complete Waste of Time.” Oikos 49 (1): 111–17.
Prager, J. 1993. Applied Microeconomics: An Intermediate Text. New York: Richard D. Irwin.
Rachlin, H. 1980. “Economics and Behavioral Psychology.” In Staddon, J., ed., Limits to Action: The Allocation of Individual Behavior. New York: Academic Press.
Rachlin, H., Battalio, R., Kagel, J., Green, L.. 1981. “Maximization Theory in Behavioral Psychology.” The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 (3): 371417.
Rachlin, H., Green, L., Kagel, J., and Battalio, R.. 1976. “Economic Demand Theory and Psychological Studies of Choice.” In The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 10. New York: Academic Press.
Rachlin, H., Kagel, J., and Battalio, R.. 1980. “Substitutability in Time Allocation.” Psychological Review 87 (4): 355–74.
Rapport, D. and Turner, J.. 1977. “Economic Models in Ecology.” Science 195 (01 28): 367–73.
Rose, S. 1997. Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism. London: Penguin Press.
Samuelson, P. and Nordhaus, W.. 1985. Economics. New York: McGraw Hill.
Silberberg, A., Warren-Boulton, F., and Asano, T.. 1987. “Inferior-Good and Giffen-Good Effects in Monkey Choice Behavior.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes 13 (3): 292301.
Simon, Herb. 1995. “Comment on Kagel.” In Wolters, G. and Lennox, J., eds., Concepts, Theories and Rationality in the Biological Sciences. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Smith, J. 1978. “Optimization Theory in Evolution.” Annual Review of Ecological Systems 9 (9): 3156.
Stephens, D. and Krebs, J.. 1986. Foraging Theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Stigler, G. 1947. “Notes on the History of the Giffen Paradox.” Journal of Political Economy 55 (2): 152–56.
Tullock, G. 1971. “The Coal Tit as Careful Shopper.” The American Naturalist 105 (941): 7780.
Tullock, G. 1979. “Sociobiology and Economics.” Atlantic Economic Journal 7 (09): 110.
Witt, U. 1991. “Economics, Sociobiology, and Behavioral Psychology on Preferences.” Journal of Economic Psychology 12 (4): 557–73.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the History of Economic Thought
  • ISSN: 1053-8372
  • EISSN: 1469-9656
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-history-of-economic-thought
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 123 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th April 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.