For the last several years, I’ve posted recaps of the Annual Empirical Studies Conference. (See me, @ Cornell, @ USC). This year, as promised, will be no different. Yale hosted CELS V, and the committee did a bang up job: the food was tasty; there were no technical snafus of note; and the panels appeared to have a high degree of internal validity & congruence. Richard Brooks, Alan Gerber, Dan Kahan, Yair Listokin, Tracey Meares, and (especially) Roberta Romano are all due a round of applause, or, better yet, supersized computer monitors so they can see their data better. In this post, I’m going to provide a running diary of the conference. It will be like you were there with me, except you don’t have to suffer through my bouts of social anxiety!
Unfortunately, I missed the hottest ticket of the conference, Bruce Ackerman’s commentary on Law/Versteeg’s The Evolution and Ideology of Global Constitutionalism. From all reports, Ackerman said something like: “wrong questions, wrong data, wrong theory,” and then imploded in frustration. Instead of watching those fireworks, I was watching Yair Listokin present The Meaning of Contractual Silence: A Field Experiment [Here’s an older version of the paper]. Listokin ran a field experiment selling ipods on ebay, some with a warranty, some as-is, and some silent on the warranty term. He found that individuals paid attention to the contract, and there was some evidence that the UCC default was about what they thought silence meant. As he admitted, there were problems with the design of the study – particularly, (1) small & skewed samples; and (2) a lack of clarity about how much buyers know about ebay’s unique and self-contained dispute resolution system. As someone remarked after the presentation, it would have been interesting had Listokin sold all the customers bad ipods (instead of good ones) and studied how the contract terms influenced behavior post-“breach”. Then again, who needs that IRB hassle?