Experiments as Politics



The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the political nature of laboratory experiments. Such experiments can be construed as paradigms of power, open to construction and debate, where different agents and interests are involved in a process of struggle over both (re)presentation and substance. Experimenters should take a reflexive perspective on their own role and power in producing results, and they should recognize that participants in experiments take into account power relations and accordingly modify behavior that is visible or accountable to powerful others (the “panopticon”). This argument is illustrated by recent research on intergroup behavior, which suggests that biases often taken at face value reflect strategic responses to the situation that balance social reality with social resistance.