Experiments become increasingly popular in the social sciences and the variety of experimental methods goes well beyond game theoretic lab experiments. Vignette analysis is a survey experiment, in which respondents are randomly treated with a hypothetical situation consisting of several core characteristics, e. g. various aspects of a pensioners work biography and his/her old-age provision. As these characteristics are manipulated within and between respondents, vignette analysis offers many options for the analysis of causal effects. Moreover it can be argued that vignettes allow for a more valid measurement of people's opinions, norms or impressions as compared to direct questioning, as they rely on more realistic scenarios, where several dimensions have to be traded off simultaneously by respondents. Additionally the complexity of the evaluation process makes it harder to answer in socially desirable ways. And not less important, if placed in a general population survey, they allow for wider generalization than lab experiments.
Sauer, Carsten et al. (2011) 'The Application of Factorial Surveys in General Population Samples: The Effects of Respondent Age and Education on Response Times and Response Consistency', Survey Research Methods 5(3): 89-102