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Beetles: Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief

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  • Akerlof, George
  • Michaillat, Pascal

Abstract

This paper develops a theory of promotion based on evaluations by the already promoted. The already-promoted show favoritism toward candidates with similar beliefs, just as beetles are more prone to eat the eggs of other species. With such egg-eating bias, false beliefs may not be eliminated by the promotion system. The main application is to scientific revolutions: when tenured scientists show favoritism toward tenure candidates with similar beliefs, science may not converge to the true paradigm. We extend the statistical concept of power to science: the power of the tenure test is the probability (absent any bias) of denying tenure to a scientist who adheres to the false paradigm, just as the power of any statistical test is the probability of rejecting a false null hypothesis. The power of the tenure test depends on the norms regarding the appropriate criteria to use in promotion and the empirical evidence available to apply these criteria. Economics and other social sciences are particularly at risk of capture by false paradigms because they have low power. Another application is to hierarchical organizations.

Suggested Citation

  • Akerlof, George & Michaillat, Pascal, 2017. "Beetles: Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief," CEPR Discussion Papers 12514, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12514
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Wang, Jian & Veugelers, Reinhilde & Stephan, Paula, 2017. "Bias against novelty in science: A cautionary tale for users of bibliometric indicators," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1416-1436.
    2. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
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    1. repec:spr:ecogov:v:19:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10101-017-0200-1 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • M51 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Firm Employment Decisions; Promotions
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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