“Improving Experimental Treatments in Political Science” in Advances in Experimental Political Science. Cambridge University Press, 2020.

Book Chapter
Diana C. Mutz
Research Area: 

This chapter examines experimental treatments and the theoretical, practical and empirical issues involved in their implementation. I begin by discussing the underlying purpose of experimental treatments. Second, I address what it means to say that a treatment has generalizable effects. Third, I discuss practical issues involved in constructing treatments in a variety of contexts including written, spoken, visual, and behavioral interventions. In the fourth section, I highlight the importance of validating that experimental treatments have induced the intended differences by experimental condition in the independent variable. I point to the general neglect of manipulation checks in experiments in political science and emphasize what can be learned through their inclusion. Contemporary publications provide some evidence of confusion among political scientists about the purposes for which manipulation checks and attention checks are appropriate. In the fifth and final section, I highlight the need for political scientists to move beyond between-subject assignment of treatments to consider far more powerful within-subject and hybrid experimental treatments.