Discovery of Treatments from Text Corpora

Monday, April 25th, 2016 11:30 am12:00 pm

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An extensive literature in computational social science examines how features of messages, advertisements, and other corpora affect individuals’ decisions, but these analyses must specify the relevant features of the text before the experiment. Automated text analysis methods are able to discover features of text, but these methods cannot be used to obtain the estimates of causal effects—the quantity of interest for applied researchers. We introduce a new experimental design and statistical model to simultaneously discover treatments in a corpora and estimate causal effects for these discovered treatments. We prove the conditions to identify the treatment effects of texts and introduce the supervised Indian Buffet process to discover those treatments. Our method enables us to discover treatments in a training set using a collection of texts and individuals’ responses to those texts, and then estimate the effects of these interventions in a test set of new texts and survey respondents. We apply the model to an experiment about candidate biographies, recovering intuitive features of voters’ decisions and revealing a penalty for lawyers and a bonus for military service.