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The Duhem-Quine thesis and experimental economics. A reinterpretation

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    The Duhem-Quine thesis asserts that any empirical evaluation of a theory is in fact a composite test of several interconnected hypotheses. Recalcitrant evidence signals falsity within the conjunction of hypotheses, but logic alone cannot pinpoint the individual element(s) inside the theoretical cluster responsible for a false prediction. This paper considers the relevance of the Duhem-Quine thesis for experimental economics. A starting point is to detail how laboratory evaluations of economic hypotheses constitute composite tests. Another aim is to scrutinize the strategy of conducting a series of experiments in order to hem in the source(s) of disconfirmative evidence. A Bayesian approach is employed to argue that reproducing experiments is not necessarily useful in terms of identifying correct causes of recalcitrant data.

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    Paper provided by Statistics Norway, Research Department in its series Discussion Papers with number 329.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:329
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    1. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521415019.
    2. Chris Starmer,, . "Experiments in Economics ... (should we trust the dismal scientists in white coats?)," University of East Anglia Discussion Papers in Economics _002, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    3. Binmore, Ken, 1999. "Why Experiment in Economics?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages F16-24, February.
    4. Smith, Vernon L, 1989. "Theory, Experiment and Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 151-69, Winter.
    5. Cross, Rodney, 1982. "The Duhem-Quine Thesis, Lakatos and the Appraisal of Theories in Macroeconomics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(366), pages 320-40, June.
    6. Roth, Alvin E, 1994. "Lets Keep the Con out of Experimental Econ.: A Methodological Note," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 279-89.
    7. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-55, December.
    8. Vernon L. Smith, 1994. "Economics in the Laboratory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 113-131, Winter.
    9. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521425230.
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