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

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  • Thomas Mayer

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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  • Thomas Mayer, "undated". "Misinterpreting a Failure to Disconfirm as a Confirmation: A Recurrent Misreading of Significance Tests," Department of Economics 01-08, California Davis - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:caldec:01-08
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Deirdre N. McCloskey & Stephen T. Ziliak, 1996. "The Standard Error of Regressions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 97-114, March.
    2. Kevin Hoover & Stephen Perez, 2001. "Three attitudes towards data mining," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 195-210.
    3. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
    4. Krolzig, Hans-Martin & Hendry, David F., 2001. "Computer automation of general-to-specific model selection procedures," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(6-7), pages 831-866, June.
    5. Kevin D. Hoover & Stephen J. Perez, 1999. "Data mining reconsidered: encompassing and the general-to-specific approach to specification search," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 2(2), pages 167-191.
    6. Shang-Jin Wei, 2000. "How Taxing is Corruption on International Investors?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 82(1), pages 1-11, February.
    7. Hands,D. Wade, 2001. "Reflection without Rules," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521797962.
    8. James T. Hamilton & W. Kip Viscusi, 1999. "Are Risk Regulators Rational? Evidence from Hazardous Waste Cleanup Decisions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 1010-1027, September.
    9. 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.
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    JEL classification:

    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology

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