Social Experiments

Larry L. Orr, Rebecca A. Maynard

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article provides the foundation for understanding social experiments and why it is valuable to conduct them. (For a more detailed discussion of most of the topics included in this article, see Orr (1999).) It begins by defining the term and discussing the rationale for using experimental methods to evaluate social policies, practices, and programs. It then discusses the design and analysis of social experiments, and the issues of internal and external validity of social experiments. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the ethics of such studies and an historical perspective on social experimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparison group
  • Control group
  • Counterfactual
  • External validity
  • Health insurance experiment
  • Internal validity
  • Minimum detectable effects
  • Negative income tax experiments
  • Pre"post design
  • Random assignment
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Selection bias
  • Social experiment
  • Treatment group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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