Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Facebook Twitter YouTube Trending Globally Podcast Instagram LinkedIn Tumblr Email list

Jonathan Renshon — The Generalizability of IR Experiments Beyond the U.S

Monday, November 14, 2022

12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

Birkelund Board Room, 111 Thayer Street

Scholars have increasingly relied on experiments to identify the micro-foundations of canonical theories of international relations. Though IR theories often make predictions that ought to hold across many countries, experimental evidence in IR relies overwhelmingly on studies fielded in the U.S. We argue that (1) the breadth of experimental evidence in international relations does not match the scope of its underlying theories and (2) the very nature of what constitutes a theory of international relations makes concerns about generalizability far more pressing than is usually acknowledged. We plan a harmonized replication study, focusing on four prominent IR experiments, to be implemented in seven different countries – Brazil, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Nigeria, and USA. Through this pre-registered meta-study, our main contribution will be to examine whether IR experiments that test some of the field’s more well-known theories generalize beyond the U.S. In addition, we contribute to the growing experimental literature in IR by laying out a theoretically motivated and transparent case selection procedure and providing a framework to explore potential cross-site variation in effects identified across different contexts.

Jonathan Renshon is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At UW, he helped start and now runs the “Experimental Politics Workshop,” part of the department’s Methods, Experiments and Data (MEAD) Friday workshop series. The workshop began in 2014 and has hosted outside speakers as well as roundtables on issues related to experimentation, ethics, research transparency and design. The central focus of the workshop is a series of presentations by graduate students and faculty designed to yield feedback on their experimental designs before they are fielded. The workshop also hosts an annual “Pilot Grant” competition for graduate students designed to provide seed funding for pilot studies. At UW, he teaches courses on Political Psychology, International Relations, Research Design and Experimental Methods.

His book, Fighting for Status: Hierarchy and Conflict in International Politics, was published in May 2017 by Princeton University Press and was awarded the 2017 Lepgold Prize from the Mortara Center at Georgetown University and the 2019 “Best Book Award” from the International Studies Association. It has been reviewed in Perspectives on Politics, World Politics, International Studies Review, Political Science Quarterly, Political Psychology, Politique étrangère, The Hindu and the been the subject of an H-DIPLO/ISSF roundtable.

His current work focuses on reputations in international relations, experimental methods and empathy in politics. You can read about some of his recent work (with Josh Kertzer) on public opinion and elites in world politics at Politico. A new book (co-authored with Ryan Brutger, Josh Kertzer & Chagai Weiss), Abstraction in Experimental Design, was published by Cambridge University Press’ Elements in Experimental Political Science series in September 2022.

Security Studies Seminar

The format of the seminar is a brief (5-minute) introduction by the author, some initial comments by a lead discussant (5-10 minutes), and then open comments from attendees (remainder of time). All attendees are expected to read the paper ahead of time, as the author will not present their research. This is a working session. Email watsonevents@brown.edu to request a copy of the paper.