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The Positive Economics of Methodology

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Author Info

  • James A. Kahn
  • Steve Landsburg
  • Alan C. Stockman

Abstract

Does an observation constitute stronger evidence for a theory if it was made after rather than before the theory was formulated, when it may have influenced the theory's construction? Philosophers have discussed this question (of "novel confirmation") but have lacked a formal model of scientific research and incentives. The question applies to all types of research. One example in economics involves evaluating models constructed on the basis of VARs (where a researcher looks at evidence and then constructs a theory) versus structural models with formal econometric tests (where a model is constructed before some of the evidence on it is obtained). This paper develops a simple model of scientific research. It discusses the issues that affect the answer to this question of the timing and theory-construction and observation or experimentation. We also address issues of social versus private incentives in the choice of research strategies, and of socially optimal rewards for researchers in the presence of information and incentive constraints.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Technical Working Papers with number 0082.

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Date of creation: Nov 1989
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Publication status: published as Kahn, James A., Steven E. Landsburg and Alan C. Stockman. "The Positive Economics Of Methodology," Journal of Economic Theory, 1996, v68(1,Jan), 64-76.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberte:0082

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Cited by:
  1. Mitesh Kataria, 2013. "Confirmation: What's in the evidence?," Jena Economic Research Papers 2013-025, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  2. Kevin Hoover & Mark Siegler, 2008. "Sound and fury: McCloskey and significance testing in economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 1-37.
  3. Sullivan, Ryan & Timmermann, Allan & White, Halbert, 2001. "Dangers of data mining: The case of calendar effects in stock returns," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 249-286, November.

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