Chapter 7: Experimental Approaches to the Diffusion of Norms
187 comfortable with the existing norms. Casual discussions about politics can create agreement on political matters, but people living in close proximity often possess similar incomes and, thus, share similar material interests that shape political views. Nearly every example of norm formation within social networks possesses an equally plausible counter-explanation involving selection. Randomized experiments oﬀer a method of isolating the eﬀects of interpersonal inﬂuence. THE BENEFITS OF RANDOMIZATION For our purposes, an experiment is any random application of a factor on a pool of subjects. Classic experiments randomly divide subjects into a treatment group, which receives an intervention, and a control group, which does not.4 Because the division is random, the treatment group and control group should be comparable. In other words, the likelihood that a subject receives the intervention is not aﬀected by their age, income, education, gregariousness, curiosity or any other trait. An experiment has been correctly designed when a subject’s assignment to treatment or control provides no information about their demographic or other characteristics. The chief attraction of experiments is the ease with which they can isolate unique inﬂuences of the manipulated treatment. The empirical leverage aﬀorded by experiments can be illustrated by thinking of one person’s behavior as a function of another person’s behavior and outside factors. Equation (7.1) models the eﬀect of person 1’s behavior on person 2 where A2 represents the attitudes or actions of person 2, c is a constant, A1 the attitudes or actions of...
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