Critical Condition: People Don’t Dislike A Corporate Experiment More than They Dislike Its Worst Condition
39 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2018 Last revised: 23 Jul 2019
Date Written: February 25, 2019
Why have companies faced a backlash for running experiments? Academics and pundits have argued people find corporate experimentation intrinsically objectionable. Here we investigate “experiment aversion,” finding evidence that, if anything, experiments are more acceptable than the worst policies they contain. In six studies participants evaluated the acceptability of either corporate policy changes or of experiments testing them. When all policy changes were deemed acceptable, so was the experiment, even when it involved deception, unequal outcomes, and lack of consent. When a policy change was deemed unacceptable, so was the experiment, but less so. The acceptability of an experiment hinges on its critical condition — its least acceptable policy. Experiments are not unpopular, unpopular policies are unpopular.
Keywords: field experiments, public opinion, market research, business ethics
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