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

  • Thomas Mayer

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

Registered author(s):

    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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    File URL: http://wp.econ.ucdavis.edu/01-8.pdf
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    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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    1. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    2. Hans-Martin Krolzig, 2000. "Computer Automation of General-to-Specific Model Selection Procedures," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0411, Econometric Society.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521497152 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Shang-Jin Wei, 1997. "How Taxing is Corruption on International Investors?," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 63, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    6. Kevin Hoover & Stephen J. Perez, 2003. "Data Mining Reconsidered: Encompassing And The General-To-Specific Approach To Specification Search," Working Papers 9727, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    7. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521797962 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Kevin Hoover & Stephen Perez, 2001. "Three attitudes towards data mining," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 195-210.
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