Dr. Ana Bracic awarded the APSA Experimental Research Section Book Prize

July 1, 2021

MSU PLS Assistant Professor Ana Bracic was awarded the prize for the Best Book published in 2020 by the Experimental Research section of the American Political Science Association. 

Dr. Bracic's book "Breaking the Exclusion Cycle: How to Promote Cooperation between Majority and Minority Ethnic Groups" develops the theory of how individual behaviors contribute to the persistence of social exclusion. Dr. Bracic illustrates the theory by examining the behaviors of Roma and non-Roma through an original video game. 

The committee noted: 

The committee reviewed several excellent books, but one stood out as clearly deserving of the prize for this year’s best book incorporating experimental research. Dr. Ana Bracic’s Breaking the Exclusion Cycle, sets out to study the dynamics of social exclusion. She offers a plausible theory of exclusion that highlights the attitudes and behaviors of not only those who engage in exclusionary practices, but of those who are excluded and who may react to various prompts and cues in anticipation of harsh treatment, fueling a cyclical dynamic.
To empirically test her broadly applicable theory, Dr. Bracic focuses specifically on Europe’s largest minority, the Roma, and their experiences of discrimination in Slovenia. She builds on careful historical and ethnographic insights as well as individual-level observational data to provide preliminary evidence for her theoretical claims. At the heart of the book are several carefully-executed “lab in the field” experiments, which were implemented in two different Slovenian towns. By playing experimental games with Roma and non-Roma, Dr. Bracic is able to shed light on the determinants of discriminatory behavior and coping strategies, sidestepping the many confounds affecting the observational analyses. The games themselves are innovative---for example, one involved the development of a simple video game to facilitate the participation of non-literate Roma citizens---and are crafted in ways that prioritize the safety and comfort of experimental subjects.
While highlighting the powerful and unfortunate ways in which exclusionary practices are self-reinforcing, Dr. Bracic also offers suggestive evidence on a promising path forward. Inter-group contact promoted by civil society organizations may help reduce exclusion and increase cooperation across ethnic-group lines.
Although most experimental political science research tends to be presented in scholarly journals, Breaking the Exclusion Cycle takes great advantage of the book format to offer readers both local context, and the opportunity to link multiple experimental research designs and findings such that the whole is even greater than the sum of the many strong parts.
The committee was impressed by the transparency of her research designs and several exemplary features of the work, which accorded with best practices. The book was honest and careful in the reporting of results, including by keeping the reader aware of variation in the credibility of different kinds of evidence. This book offers not only important lessons for scholars across fields who are interested in intergroup cooperation and exclusion, but it also provides a terrific manual on how one can use experimental methodology to answer important research questions.
In short, the committee applauds the substantive rigor, ambitious research, and the linking of real-world problems to theory and empirics displayed in this fine book, and we are pleased to award the prize to the author.