A Simple Theory of Scientific Learning
E. Glen Weyl
University of Chicago; University of Toulouse 1 - Toulouse School of Economics
September 8, 2007
Scientists use diverse evidence to learn about the relative validity of various broad theories. Given the lack of statistical structure in this scientific learning problem, techniques of model selection and meta-analysis are not directly useful as quantitative guides. I use five simplifying assumptions to make the problem tractable by standard statistical methods. Combining Bayesian and frequentist approaches, I derive simple, intuitive rules for updating beliefs. The theory incorporates trade-offs among seemingly incomparable dimensions often used to judge models: ex-ante plausibility, precision, empirical accuracy and general applicability. I establish necessary and sufficient conditions for the consistency of the learning procedure which provides easy robustness checks for applied analysis and a simple algorithm for choosing a robustly consistent, but efficient, trade-off between precision and accuracy. I develop the theory in the context of data collected by Charness and Rabin (2002). In contrast to the authors' analysis, I find (for a wide range of prior beliefs and parameter values) that after taking into account its greater precision, Selfishness is the best model of choice in the simple games they consider.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 45
Keywords: model selection, machine learning, other-regarding preferences, Bayesian statistics
JEL Classification: B41. C11, C52working papers series
Date posted: January 8, 2009
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo4 in 0.656 seconds