Adapting Experimental Methods to New Populations


This case study involves two trends in social science research: the use of experimental methods and the increased interest in doing quantitative work in the field. Each has developed its own set of specialized tools to address problems that may arise, but when methods are applied to new situations, these otherwise standard tools can be inappropriate. One example is risk preference measurement. Risk preferences correlate with a number of behaviors, but behavioral measures are often operationalized in ways that can be interpreted as impermissible gambling. This may be prohibited by governments, religions, and Institutional Review Boards, or objected to by participants. I solved one such problem by using charitable incentives, rather than cash ones and found results from the two types of measures to be comparable. Creativity and local knowledge can be applied to the tools of our trade to allow us to conduct technologically sophisticated quantitative research in places where it may not have been possible in the past.

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