Heisenberg ruins social science too

Well, not really "ruins," but it seems that the uncertainty principle might be alive and well in social sciences too. I'm a bit late on this, since it came out in PNAS a few months ago. But obviously still worth it.

Being surveyed can change later behavior and related parameter estimates
Alix Peterson Zwane, Jonathan Zinman, Eric Van Dusen, William Pariente, Clair Null, Edward Miguel, Michael Kremer, Dean S. Karlan, Richard Hornbeck, Xavier Giné, Esther Duflo, Florencia Devoto, Bruno Crepon, and Abhijit Banerjee
(Edited by Eric S. Maskin, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ)
Does completing a household survey change the later behavior of those surveyed? In three field studies of health and two of microlending, we randomly assigned subjects to be surveyed about health and/or household finances and then measured subsequent use of a related product with data that does not rely on subjects' self-reports. In the three health experiments, we find that being surveyed increases use of water treatment products and take-up of medical insurance. Frequent surveys on reported diarrhea also led to biased estimates of the impact of improved source water quality. In two microlending studies, we do not find an effect of being surveyed on borrowing behavior. The results suggest that limited attention could play an important but context-dependent role in consumer choice, with the implication that researchers should reconsider whether, how, and how much to survey their subjects.
Perhaps the IRB should tax RCT's for polluting each other's experiments?

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