Applied Stats Workshop (Gov 3009)


Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel K354

The Applied Statistics Workshop (Gov 3009) meets all academic year, Wednesdays, 12pm-1:30pm, in CGIS K354. This workshop is a forum for advanced graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars to present and discuss methodological or empirical work in progress in an interdisciplinary setting. The workshop features a tour of Harvard's statistical innovations and applications with weekly stops in different fields and disciplines and includes occasional presentations by invited speakers.  Free lunch is provided.

Dean Eckles (MIT Sloan) presents 


Estimating peer effects in networks with peer encouragement designs


Peer effects, in which the behavior of an individual is affected by the behavior of their peers, are central to social science. Because peer effects are often confounded with homophily and common external causes, recent work has used randomized experiments to estimate effects of specific peer behaviors. These experiments have often relied on the experimenter being able to randomly modulate mechanisms by which peer behavior is transmitted to a focal individual. We describe experimental designs that instead randomly assign individuals’ peers to encouragements to behaviors that directly affect those individuals. We illustrate this method with a large peer encouragement design on Facebook for estimating the effects of receiving feedback from peers on posts shared by focal individuals. We find evidence for substantial effects of receiving marginal feedback on multiple behaviors, including giving feedback to others and continued posting. These findings provide experimental evidence for the role of behaviors directed at specific individuals in the adoption and continued use of communication technologies. In comparison, observational estimates differ substantially, both underestimating and overestimating effects, suggesting that researchers and policy makers should be cautious in relying on them. This provides evidence about the role of directed behaviors in the adoption and continued use of broadcast functionality.

    Joint work with René Kizilcec (Stanford, on the job market) and Eytan Bakshy (Facebook)

    Paper on this work in PNAS