One constraint we face as economists is not being able to observe all the relevant variables required to test our theories or make policy prescriptions. Laboratory techniques allow us to convert many variables (such as beliefs) that are unobservable in the field into observables. This article presents a survey of the literature on belief elicitation in laboratory experimental economics. We discuss several techniques available to elicit beliefs in an incentive-compatible manner and the problems involved in their use. We then look at how successful these techniques have been when employed in laboratory studies. We find that despite some problems, beliefs elicited in the laboratory are meaningful (i.e., they are generally used as the basis for behavior), and the process of eliciting beliefs seems not to be too intrusive. One hope for the future is that by eliciting beliefs, we may be able to develop better theories of belief formation.


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