Cumulative Knowledge in the Social Sciences: The Case of Improving Voters’ Information

Posted: 5 Sep 2018 Last revised: 17 Apr 2019

See all articles by Federica Izzo

Federica Izzo

London School of Economics, Department of Government

Torun Dewan

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: August 26, 2018

Abstract

To achieve accumulation of knowledge, scholars have adopted the strategy of reproducing similar designs in different contexts and comparing the resulting estimates. These enterprises have often yielded mixed findings, with some empirical results diverging starkly from theoretical predictions. A prominent example is the literature on the effects of improving voters’ information. How are we to interpret such inconclusive evidence? Using a game theoretic model we establish that existing empirical works on the effect of information treatments do not always measure a well-defined theoretical quantity. This impedes knowledge accumulation as these empirical studies are likely to give different results even absent any internal validity concerns (studies are perfectly randomized), external validity issues (contexts are similar), or statistical noises (the number of observations is unbounded). Our paper offers several recommendations on how to ensure comparability across distinct studies; that is, to ensure that each study measures the same theoretical quantity.

Keywords: Electoral Accountability, Reproduction, Accumulation of Knowledge, Comparability

JEL Classification: D72, D80, C99, C81, H40

Suggested Citation

Izzo, Federica and Dewan, Torun and Wolton, Stephane, Cumulative Knowledge in the Social Sciences: The Case of Improving Voters’ Information (August 26, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3239047 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3239047

Federica Izzo (Contact Author)

London School of Economics, Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

Torun Dewan

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
280
PlumX Metrics