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Kiyotaki Wright Hazlett Experiment

(The contents of this page are provided by the Finance and Economics Experimental Laboratory at the University of Exeter.)

You may find the example subject instructions helpful.

  • Level: Year ?1 undergraduate
  • Pre-requisite knowledge: ?
  • Suitable modules: ?


Students play together in a single large group as agents who meet randomly in pairs over the course of a number of rounds. There are 3 types of agents and 3 goods and each agent produces a different good from what they consume, so they must trade in order to consume. The experiment is designed so that trading can only occur if at least one agent in each pair is willing to accept a good that is not his/her own consumption good. Consequently the good with the lowest storage cost spontaneously emerges as the generally accepted medium of exchange.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Origin of money.

Discussion of Likely Results

There are roughly equal numbers of Type 1, 2 and 3 agents and each starts round 1 with 40 points and one unit of the good that they produce.

Agent Consumes Consumption Bonus Produces Storage Cost Net Payoff
Type 1 Good 1 20 points Good 2 4 points 16 points
Type 2 Good 2 20 points Good 3 9 points 11 points
Type 3 Good 3 20 points Good 1 1 point 19 points

Agents earn the net payoff shown above when they trade for their own consumption good, otherwise they must pay the storage cost of whatever good they hold, whether they have traded in that round or not.

Good 1 is the least expensive to store and therefore emerges as 'money'.

Type 2 agents are at a disadvantage because they produce Good 3 which is the most costly to store and will usually only be accepted by a Type 3 agent. If Good 3 were less expensive to store, some Type 1 agents might accept it speculatively in the hope of quickly offloading it to a Type 3 agent holding Good 1.

Further Discussion Points

  1. The inefficiency of a barter economy.

  2. Money helps solve the problem of double coincidence of wants.

  3. Fun discussion: some people may do quite well in a barter economy, see Kyle MacDonald: One Red Paperclip.

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