This site brings together research from the Oxford Internet Institute that uses social science experiments to examine the psychological, social and political dimensions of human life online. Experimental methodologies have long been a mainstay of the natural sciences, and have become popular in social science disciplines, such as social psychology, economics and more recently political science. Experiments offer exciting potential to establish causal relationships, unrivalled by other methodologies. Social experiments can also be used in policy-making and practice, as in the UK through the work of the Behavioural Insights Team.
Experiments are particularly useful for exploring behaviour in online spaces. On social media and other internet-based platforms, we are exposed to a range of social influences. We are surrounded with social information about what other people are doing or thinking, which may influence our own choices. And we are likely to be visible to other people, sometimes in large numbers, which may also influence how we act and portray ourselves. Experiments are an excellent way to test the effect of these social influences, because we can design an intervention where social information is provided (or not), or where people are visible (or not). So internet experiments provide a range of novel experimental contexts from which we can understand people’s behaviour in online settings – and test established theories in new and interesting ways.