Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Putting Politics in the Lab: A Review of Lab Experiments in Political Science

  • Damien Bol
Abstract

Experiments are now common in political science. They are an excellent methodological tool to estimate the causal effect of a treatment on an outcome. In this article, I review the use of lab experiments in political science. After a brief report on their popularity and advantages, I distinguish two ideal-types (economics-based and psychology-based) and outline the main lines of division between them. In the final section, I discuss the main challenges that lab experimentalists are facing today.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

Damien Bol is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. Contact email: damien.bol@kcl.ac.uk.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Adida, C.L., Laitin, D.D. and Valfort, M.-A. (2016), ‘“One Muslim is Enough!” Evidence from a Field Experiment in France’, Annals of Economics and Statistics, 121/122: 121160.
Amorim Neto, O. and Cox, G.W. (1997), ‘Electoral Institutions, Cleavage Structures, and the Number of Parties’, American Journal of Political Science, 41(1): 149174.
Angrist, J.D. and Pischke, J.-S. (2010), ‘The Credibility Revolution in Empirical Economics: How Better Research Design is Taking the Con out of Econometrics’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24(2): 330.
Baker, M. (2016), ‘1,500 Scientists Lift the Lid on Reproducibility’, Nature, 533(7604): 452454.
Bawn, K. (1993), ‘The Logic of Institutional Preferences: German Electoral Law as a Social Choice Outcome’, American Journal of Political Science, 37(4): 965989.
Belot, M., Duch, R. and Miller, L. (2015), ‘A Comprehensive Comparison of Students and Non-students in Classic Experimental Games’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organisation, 113(1): 2633.
Benjamin, D.J., Berger, J.O., Johannesson, M. et al. (2018), ‘Redefining Statistical Significance’, Nature Human Behavior, 2: 610.
Blais, A. and Carty, K.R. (1990), ‘Does Proportional Representation Foster Voter Turnout?’, European Journal of Political Research, 18(2): 167181.
Blais, A., Labbé St-Vincent, S., Pilet, J.-B. and Treibich, R. (2016), ‘Voting Correctly in Lab Elections with Monetary Incentives: The Impact of District Magnitude’, Party Politics, 22(4): 544551.
Boix, C. (1999), ‘Setting the Rules of the Game: The Choice of Electoral Systems in Advanced Democracies’, American Political Science Review, 93(3): 609624.
Bol, D. (2019), ‘Experiments: A Tool to Test Causal Relationships’, in F. Morin, C. Olsson and E. Ozlem Atikcan (eds), Key Concepts in Research Methods (Cambridge: Routledge).
Bol, D., Labbé St-Vincent, S. and Lavoie, J.-M. (2016), ‘Recruiting for Laboratory Voting Experiments: Exploring the (Potential) Sampling Bias’, in A. Blais, J.-F. Laslier and K. Van der Straeten (eds), Voting Experiments (New York: Springer): 271286.
Bol, D., Blais, A. and Labbé St-Vincent, S. (2018), ‘Which Matters Most: Party Strategic Exit or Voter Strategic Voting? A Laboratory Experiment’, Political Science Research and Methods, 6(2): 229244.
Carey, J.M. and Hix, S. (2011), ‘The Electoral Sweet Spot: Low Magnitude Proportional Electoral Systems’, American Journal of Political Science, 55(2): 383397.
Cliffort, S. and Jerit, J. (2014), ‘Is There a Cost to Convenience? An Experimental Comparison of Data Quality in Laboratory and Online Studies’, Journal of Experimental Political Science, 1(2): 120131.
Coppock, A. and Green, D.P. (2015), ‘Assessing the Correspondence between Experimental Results Obtained in the Lab and Field: A Review of Recent Social Science Research’, Political Science Research and Methods, 3(1): 113131.
Desposato, S. (2016) (ed.), Ethics in Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Scientists and Policy Professionals (London: Routledge).
Dickson, E.S. (2011), ‘Economics Versus Psychology Experiments: Stylization, Incentives, and Deception’, in J.N. Druckman, D.P. Green, J.H. Kuklinski and A. Lupia (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 5871.
Dickson, E.S., Gordon, S.C. and Huber, G.A. (2015), ‘Institutional Sources of Legitimate Authority: An Experimental Investigation’, American Journal of Political Science, 59(1): 109127.
Druckman, J.N., Green, D.P., Kuklinski, J.H. and Lupia, A. (2011), ‘Experimentations in Political Science’, in J.N. Druckman, D.P. Green, J.H. Kuklinski and A. Lupia (eds), Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 313.
Druckman, J.N., Fein, J. and Leeper, T.J. (2012), ‘Source of Bias in Public Opinion Stability’, American Political Science Review, 106(2): 430454.
Duffy, J. and Tavits, M. (2008), ‘Beliefs and Voting Decisions: A Test of the Pivotal Voter Model’, American Journal of Political Science, 52(3): 603618.
Eldersveld, S.J. (1956), ‘Experimental Propaganda Techniques and Voting Behavior’, American Political Science Review, 50(1): 154165.
Feddersen, T., Gailmard, S. and Sandron, A. (2009), ‘Moral Bias in Large Elections: Theory and Experimental Evidence’, American Political Science Review, 103(2): 175192.
Gartner, S.S. (2008), ‘The Multiple Effects of Casualties on Public Support for War: An Experimental Approach’, American Political Science Review, 102(1): 95106.
Gilligan, M.J., Pasquale, B.J. and Samii, C. (2014), ‘Civil War and Social Cohesion: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence from Nepal’, American Journal of Political Science, 58(3): 604619.
Gelman, A. and Loken, E. (2013), ‘The Garden of Forking Paths: Why Multiple Comparisons Can Be a Problem, Even When There Is No “Fishing Expedition” or “P-Hacking” And the Research Hypothesis Was Posited Ahead of Time’, mimeo, Columbia University.
Gosnell, H.F. (1926), ‘An Experiment in the Stimulation of Voting’, American Political Science Review, 20(4): 869874.
Gottlieb, J. (2017), ‘Explaining Variation in Broker Strategies: A Lab-in-the-Field Experiment in Senegal’, Comparative Political Studies, 50(11): 15561592.
Herrera, H., Morelli, M. and Palfrey, T. (2014), ‘Turnout and Power Sharing’, Economic Journal, 124(574): 131162.
Jerit, J., Barabas, J. and Clifford, S. (2013), ‘Comparing Contemporaneous Laboratory and Field Experiments on Media Effects’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 77(1): 256282.
Kam, C.D. and Zechmeister, E.J. (2013), ‘Name Recognition and Candidate Support’, American Journal of Political Science, 57(4): 971986.
Kam, C.D., Wilking, J.R. and Zechmeister, E. (2007), ‘“Beyond the Narrow Data Base”: Another Convenience Sample for Experimental Research’, Political Behavior, 29(4): 415440.
Kanthak, K. and Woon, J. (2015), ‘Women Don’t Run? Election Aversion and Candidate Entry’, American Journal of Political Science, 59(3): 595612.
King, G., Keohane, R.O. and Verba, S. (1994), Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Labbé St-Vincent, S., Blais, A. and Pilet, J.-B. (2016), ‘The Electoral Sweet Spot in the Lab’, Journal of Experimental Political Science, 3(1): 7583.
Lau, R.R. and Redlawsk, D.P. (1997), ‘Voting Correctly’, American Political Science Review, 91(3): 585598.
Levendusky, M.S. (2013), ‘Why Do Partisan Media Polarize Viewers?’, American Journal of Political Science, 57(3): 611623.
Lijphart, A. (1971), ‘Comparative Politics and the Comparative Methods’, American Political Science Review, 65(3): 682693.
Lowell, A.L. (1910), ‘The Physiology of Politics’, American Political Science Review, 4(1): 115.
McCauley, J.F. (2014), ‘The Political Mobilization of Ethnic and Religious Identities in Africa’, American Political Science Review, 108(4): 801816.
McClendon, G. (2012), ‘Ethics of Using Public Officials as Field Experiment Subjects’, Newsletter of the APSA Experiments Section, 3(1): 1320.
McDermott, R. (2002a), ‘Experimental Methodology in Political Science’, Political Analysis, 10(4): 325342.
McDermott, R. (2002b), ‘Experimental Methods in Political Science’, Annual Review of Political Science, 5: 3161.
Morton, R.B. and Williams, K.C. (2010), From Nature to the Lab: The Methodology of Experimental Political Science and the Study of Causality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Mutz, D.C. and Reeves, B. (2005), ‘The New Videomalaise: Effects of Televised Incivility on Political Trust’, American Political Science Review, 99(1): 115.
Open Science Collaboration (2015), ‘Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science’, Science, 349(6251): aac4716.
Palfrey, T.R. (2009), ‘Laboratory Experiments in Political Economy’, Annual Review of Political Science, 12: 379388.
Przeworski, A. and Teune, H. (1970), The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry (Oxford: Wiley Interscience).
Ragin, C.C. (1989), The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Sanders, D. (2012), ‘The Effects of Deliberative Polling in an EU-wide Experiment: Five Mechanisms in Search of an Explanation’, British Journal of Political Science, 42(3): 617640.
Sauermann, J. and Kaiser, A. (2010), ‘Taking Others into Account: Self-interest and Fairness in Majority Decision Making’, American Journal of Political Science, 54(3): 667685.
Schram, A. (2005), ‘Artificiality: The Tension Between Internal and External Validity in Economic Experiments’, Journal of Economic Methodology, 12(2): 225237.
Terris, L.G. and Tykocinsky, O.E. (2016), ‘Inaction Inertia in International Negotiations: The Consequences of Missed Opportunities’, British Journal of Political Science, 46(3): 701717.
White, I., Laird, C.N. and Allen, T.D. (2014), ‘Selling Out? The Politics of Navigating Conflicts between Racial Group Interest and Self-interest’, American Political Science Review, 108(4): 783800.
Willis, D. (2014), ‘Professors’ Research Project Stirs Political Outrage in Montana’, New York Times, 29 October.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed