Archives for accidental experiment



Sleep No More: Theater as Social Experiment?

Have any of you seen Sleep No More? And if so, did your experience as an audience member make you think (as it did me) of the social experiments of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo (though without the sadism)? And — bonus question — is anyone actually working on a social-science research project involving Sleep No More?



The Unintended Consequences of a Twitter Contest

The other day, we woke up to realize that we were about hit our 400,000th follower on Twitter. So we put out the following tweet, offering some swag.

Innocent enough, no?

But we had walked right into an incentive trap. Read More »



The Supreme Court Provides a Dissertation Topic for a Budding Economist

Last week, the Supreme Court ordered California to release at least 30,000 prisoners due to poor prison conditions caused by overcrowding.

This is what economists call a “natural experiment,” or what I prefer to call an “accidental experiment.” The Supreme Court order will be a “shock” to the California prison system, leading to roughly a 10 percent reduction in the prison population there. I used this sort of accidental experiment in a paper I published back in 1996, finding a large impact of mandated prison releases on state crime rates. If my estimates remain relevant to the current time period, I predict that California violent crime rates should rise about 4 percent relative to the rest of the U.S. over the next few years. That adds up to about 80 extra homicides a year.

Five years from now, no doubt, an economics graduate student will analyze the data and tell us what the actual numbers look like. Unless, of course, I beat them to the punch!