Musings on Accounting Research by Steve

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Are manipulation checks history in experiments research?

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In the underlying psychology literature there is some controversy about whether manipulation checks are needed. Mind you from reading that literature it appears that some psychology researchers were not too careful about where they placed the questions that may have had the effect of priming responses that they wanted to get to their manipulations.

What are the alternatives to manipulation checks? One thing for certain is that recall checks of case facts, even manipulations, do not prove manipulations are effective. Ah, but is not remembering a manipulation a necessary condition for it to effective? No, unconscious processing of manipulation is all that is needed in many if not all experiments. After all most experiments are not done with the goal of altering long term memory!

What is important is that we have proof that participants give the same interpretation to the manipulations as the experimenters think they are. So if you do not establish that as part of your instrument with a well placed mc, then you must do pilot tests, verbal protocols, expert panels, or some other means to convince the reader that you and participants see the world in the same way as far as the experiment goes.

So are MC’s history? Not if we want to do valid experiments! In many ways for auditors it is like doing alternative procedure if the normal audit test cannot be done. Most of the time their are workarounds, but almost always involving more work than the original approach. That’s how I see the lack of manipulation checks. The slightly shorter experiment versus the extra work to prove that operationalization was effective.


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