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Misinterpreting a Failure to Disconfirm as a Confirmation: A Recurrent Misreading of Significance Tests

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  • Thomas Mayer

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

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    Abstract

    When a significance test fails to disconfirm a hypothesis economist often interpret this as evidence that this hypothesis is valid. Six such examples are cited from recent journals. But this is a misinterpretation of what significance tests show. Presumably this misinterpretation is founded on the valid principle that every failure to disconfirm a hypothesis adds to its credibility. But that principle defines â??failure to disconfirmâ?? in a way that differs sharply from the way that this phrase is used in the context of significance tests. Some ways of ameliorating this problem exist.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 18.

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    Length: 18
    Date of creation: 16 Jan 2003
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:01-8

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    Related research

    Keywords: significance tests; t values; t coefficients; confirmation;

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    References

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    1. Hands,D. Wade, 2001. "Reflection without Rules," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521797962, October.
    2. Susanna Loeb & Marianne E. Page, 2000. "Examining The Link Between Teacher Wages And Student Outcomes: The Importance Of Alternative Labor Market Opportunities And Non-Pecuniary Variation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, August.
    3. Hans-Martin Krolzig, 2000. "Computer Automation of General-to-Specific Model Selection Procedures," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0411, Econometric Society.
    4. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    5. Kevin Hoover & Stephen Perez, 2001. "Three attitudes towards data mining," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 195-210.
    6. David Hendry & Hans-Martin Krolzig, 2000. "Computer Automation of General-to-Specific Model Selection Procedures," Economics Series Working Papers 3, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Kevin D. Hoover & Stephen J. Perez, . "Data Mining Reconsidered: Encompassing And The General-To-Specific Approach To Specification Search," Department of Economics 97-27, California Davis - Department of Economics.
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