An Uncertainty Principle for Social Science Experiments

20 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2006

Date Written: June 21, 2006


We provide a model of the experimental process in the social sciences by adapting the symbolism developed for modeling experiments in atomic physics. Meaningful measurements are represented by operators that obey a non-commutative algebra. Thus, the order in which the experimenter attempts to extract information about two distinct attributes matters. In addition, responses to questions about an attribute depend on whether the experimenter has previously attempted to extract information about another attribute. The act of measurement forces the subject to reveal one value of the attribute, which is an eigenvalue of the operator associated with the measurement. Prior to this, one can only talk about the probability that the measurement will lead to any particular value. An uncertainty principle imposes a fundamental limit on the observer's ability to extract detailed information about two distinct attributes within a short period of time.

Keywords: Measurement symbols, non-commutativity

JEL Classification: C6

Suggested Citation

Loch-Temzelides, Ted P., An Uncertainty Principle for Social Science Experiments (June 21, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Ted P. Loch-Temzelides (Contact Author)

Rice University ( email )

99 Sunset Blvd
Houston, TX Texas 77005
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics