- Introduction: Doing Philosophy of Social Science
- Micro, Macro, and Mechanisms
- Mechanisms, Causal Modeling, and the Limitations of Traditional Multiple Regression
- Process Tracing and Causal Mechanisms
- Descriptive-Causal Generalizations: “Empirical Laws” in the Social Sciences?
- Useful Complex Causality
- Partial Explanations in Social Science
- Mechanistic Social Probability: How Individual Choices and Varying Circumstances Produce Stable Social Patterns
- The Impact of Duhemian Principles on Social Science Testing and Progress
- Philosophy and the Practice of Bayesian Statistics in the Social Sciences
- Sciences of Historical Tokens and Theoretical Types: History and the Social Sciences
- RCTs, Evidence, and Predicting Policy Effectiveness
- Bringing Context and Variability Back into Causal Analysis
- The Potential Value of Computational Models in Social Science Research
- Models of Culture
- The Evolutionary Program in Social Philosophy
- Cultural Evolution: Integration and Skepticism
- Coordination and the Foundations of Social Intelligence
- Making Race Out of Nothing: Psychologically Constrained Social Roles
- A Feminist Empirical and Integrative Approach in Political Science: Breaking Down the Glass Wall?
- Social Constructions of Mental Illness
- Cooperation and Reciprocity: Empirical Evidence and Normative Implications
- Evaluating Social Policy
- Values and the Science of Well-Being: A Recipe for Mixing
Abstract and Keywords
This article explains what randomized controlled experiments (RCTs) can show, and also addresses the theory of evidence for effectiveness claims. For evidence-based policy, it is predicted with reasonable confidence that the proposed policy will add positively to targeted outcomes in the situation as the policy would in fact be implemented there. The article then considers a very different account of the role of RCTs in warranting effectiveness predictions. RCT results are only important to situations where the influence is produced under a principle shared with the study situation. RCTs can be relevant to determining what the supporting factors are. It is a long road from an RCT which evidences the fact that a policy works somewhere to the prediction that the policy will work for us.
Nancy Cartwright is Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics and at the University of California at San Diego, and from 2006–2009, Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at LSE. She has written extensively in the philosophy of physics but since going to LSE has been concentrating in the philosophy of the social and economic sciences, especially on question of modelling and causality. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and the American Philosophical Society, a former MacArthur Fellow, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the German Academy of Natural Science.
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