Dating violence in two high school samples discriminating variables
Researchers who use randomized controlled experiments to measure discrimination, therefore, can manipulate race by either varying the “apparent” race of a target person as the experimental treatment or can manipulate “apparent” discrimination by randomly assigning study participants to being treated with different degrees of discrimination.
In the first case, the experimenter varies the treatment, namely, the apparent race, by such means as by providing race-related cues on job applications (e.g., name or school attended) or by showing photographs to participants in which the only differences are skin color and facial features.
The effects of these variables must be accounted for in the study design and analysis.
In controlled laboratory experiments, the investigator manipulates a variable of interest, randomly assigns participants to different conditions of the variable or treatments, and measures their responses to the manipulation while attempting to control for other relevant conditions or attributes.
When racial disparities in life outcomes occur, explicit or subtle prejudice leading to discriminatory behavior and processes is a possible cause, so that the outcomes could represent, at least in part, the effect of discrimination.Because race cannot be experimentally manipulated, an explicit specification of the behavioral process is needed that allows the translation of results from such experiments into causal statements about the actual discrimination mechanism measured in the experiment (i.e., the extent to which the experimenter can manipulate some other factor related to race, such as perception).To our knowledge, no one has attempted to carry out such formal reverse reasoning, and we believe that doing so is especially crucial when arguing for the external validity of experimental results.Laboratory experiments on discrimination would ideally measure reactions to the exact same person while manipulating only that person’s race.As noted above, while strictly speaking one cannot manipulate the actual race of a single person, experimenters do typically either manipulate the apparent race of a target person or randomly assign subjects or study participants to the experimental condition while attempting to hold constant all other attributes of possible relevance.
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As described in the previous chapter, randomization greatly increases the likelihood of being able to infer that an observed difference between the treatment and control groups is causal.