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Experimentation and Persuasion in Political Organizations

Hirsch, Alexander V. (2016) Experimentation and Persuasion in Political Organizations. American Political Science Review, 110 (01). pp. 68-84. ISSN 0003-0554. doi:10.1017/S0003055415000568.

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Different beliefs about how to achieve shared goals are common in political organizations such as government agencies, campaigns, and NGOs. However, the consequences of such conflicts have not yet been explored. We develop a formal model in which a principal and an agent disagree about the right policy for achieving their shared goals. Disagreement creates a motivational problem, but we show how both observing policy outcomes and experimenting with policies can ameliorate it. We also show that the principal often defers to the agent in order to motivate him, thereby generating more informative policy outcomes and building future consensus. Most surprisingly, she sometimes allows the agent to implement his desired policy even when she is sure it is wrong, to persuade him through failure that he is mistaken. Using the model, we generate empirical implications about performance measurement and Presidential appointments in U.S. federal agencies.

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Additional Information:© 2016 American Political Science Association. I owe thanks to Kenneth Shotts, David Baron, Matt Jackson, Keith Krehbiel, John Roberts, Terry Moe, John Hatfield, Nolan McCarty, Jonathan Bendor, Carlos Lever, Aaron Bodoh-Creed, Marc Meredith, Christopher Stanton, Craig Volden, Sean Gailmard, Brandice Canes-Wrone, Kristopher Ramsay, John Kastellec, Adam Meirowitz, Roland Benabou, Ron Gurantz, the Thomas family, participants of COWBELL, and seminar audiences at Vanderbilt, Princeton, Minnesota, Texas A&M, Columbia, Cornell, the Princeton Conference on Political Agency, and the Institute for Advanced Study for helpful comments. I am also indebted to the editor and four anonymous referees for detailed criticisms that dramatically improved this article, and to Alex Bolton for truly indispensable research assistance. Part of this work was completed during a sabbatical at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) that was jointly financed by Princeton University and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
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Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160520-092315336
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Official Citation:ALEXANDER V. HIRSCH (2016). Experimentation and Persuasion in Political Organizations. American Political Science Review, 110, pp 68-84. doi:10.1017/S0003055415000568.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:67200
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:20 May 2016 17:29
Last Modified:11 Nov 2021 00:28

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