Fortunately, in the real world, it's pretty hard to overthrow a democracy and introduce a totalitarian regime, just to see what happens. Likewise, you can't mess with the rules of kinship or the rate of inflation on a whim.
But that's not to say sociologists, anthropologists and economists wouldn't like to try. And that's why the rapid growth of virtual worlds, from Second Life to World of Warcraft (see image, left), is such an exciting prospect for researchers in these fields. For those who normally have to rely on time-consuming fieldwork, small-scale laboratory experiments, or the lessons of history, virtual worlds offer the tantalising prospect of a real sociological laboratory.
Read more at - 'Virtual worlds: Perfect for studying humans?'