Social Capital
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Social Capital

Reaching Out, Reaching In

Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis

This book showcases new innovative research in economics, politics, sociology, and management regarding the topic. Leading scholars from a variety of disciplines present ground-breaking new research exploring the still-undiscovered value of social capital. The book employs a self-consciously multi-disciplinary approach to address two objectives: reaching out and reaching in. Through theoretical and empirical scholarship, the authors explore the many contexts in which the phenomenon can have impact. In effect, social capital research reaches out to issues of economic well-being, civic participation, educational achievement, knowledge and norm formation, and competitive advantage. Further, the authors investigate the many connections between the core themes of social capital and the pillars on which it rests, including structural networks, cognition, relationships and trust. This book is fundamentally about bridging – bridging across disciplines, units of analysis, and themes.
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Chapter 7: Experimental Approaches to the Diffusion of Norms

David W. Nickerson


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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