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Law and Statistical Disorder: Statistical Hypothesis Test Procedures And the Criminal Trial Analogy


  • Tung Liu

    () (Department of Economics, Ball State University)

  • Courtenay Cliff Stone

    () (Department of Economics, Ball State University)


Virtually all business and economics statistics texts start their discussion of hypothesis tests with some more-or-less detailed reference to criminal trials. Apparently, these authors believe that students are better able to understand the relevance and usefulness of hypothesis test procedures by introducing them first via the dramatic analogy of the criminal justice system. In this paper, we argue that using the criminal trial analogy to motivate and introduce hypothesis test procedures represents bad statistics and bad pedagogy. First, we show that statistical hypothesis test procedures can not be applied to criminal trials. Thus, the criminal trial analogy is invalid. Second, we propose that students can better understand the simplicity and validity of statistical hypothesis test procedures if these procedures are carefully contrasted with the difficulties of decisionmaking in the context of criminal trials. The criminal trial discussion provides a bad analogy but an excellent counter-example for teaching statistical hypothesis procedures and the nature of statistical decision-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Tung Liu & Courtenay Cliff Stone, 2006. "Law and Statistical Disorder: Statistical Hypothesis Test Procedures And the Criminal Trial Analogy," Working Papers 200601, Ball State University, Department of Economics, revised May 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:bsu:wpaper:200601

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    More about this item


    hypothesis tests; criminal trials; Neyman-Pearson hypothesis test procedures;

    JEL classification:

    • A22 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics - - - Undergraduate
    • C12 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Hypothesis Testing: General
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law

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