Candy We Still Believe In: A Halloween Experiment

(Photo: Steven Depolo)

Instead of trick or treat, how about treatment or control? We conducted two new studies on my porch this year for Halloween. Unfortunately, the mayor of New Haven recommended that people delay trick-or-treating post-Sandy even though the neighborhood was in good shape. This caused lots of confusion, and a turnout of half of the normal turnout of 600 or so kids. So sample size is down, standard errors up.

Alas, two nice results. Both written up in one-page one-graph papers.  

First: replication is undersold in social sciences. Huge shame. So Experiment No. 1 simply redid an experiment from 2008, to see if we would get the same result. We found in 2008 that younger children, but not older children, had inelastic demand for Barack Obama, with respect to the quantity of candy. We replicated this exact result.

Second: In Experiment No. 2, we find that presenting a visual cue of Michelle Obama (compared to Ann Romney) led older children but not younger children to be more likely to choose fruit over candy.

These were conducted with the help of Yale’s Students for Proven Impact Club.

Alan zarky

But why use, in the results of experiment one, the phrase "begs the question" to say "presents the question," when that meaning can readily be conveyed through "presents," but using "begs the question" interferes with its having its specific, logical meaning of "assumes the answer to the question"?


And...what is the point of this experiment exactly?


I think the point of Experiment 1 was to show that even children, when looking for free handouts, believe that they will receive better goodies from the side of a porch labeled Obama than the side labeled Romney. It's unclear whether the association was subconscious or the children actually believed that Obama and Romney chose the candies handed out on each side of the porch. However, older children, perhaps due to more experience and knowledge, realized that both candidates are capable of giving away handouts so, when explicitly told that the Romney side would give out more, shifted to the Romney side.


Can images really be that effective? Although, experiment 2 is an interesting concept of modifying behavior using visual cues. Perhaps young kids respond more to candy than to images. Studies like these also implicate whether young kids care about politics. I believe they are aware, but do they understand political advertising? I also wonder what Ann's First Lady project would be.