Like incentivised laboratory experiments Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) are all the rage in economics. RCTs are commonplace in the health sector starting with Pasteur’s first controlled trials 200 years ago. While application of RCTs to social sciences is relatively recent.
However, by their very nature social sciences involve researching social groups and networks where information is distributed and co-ordinated with relative ease and frequency.
This creates a unique problem for RCTs in social research because it is very difficult to construct experiments that are able to completely seal information within evaluated units. Importantly, the closer the social networks of individuals the more likely there will be information contamination and that individuals in the ‘control’ condition will act on this information. Continue reading