Statistical Significance and the Burden of Persuasion
12 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016 Last revised: 9 Mar 2016
Date Written: 1983
In any case involving statistical proof, the proponent of the evidence understandably covets testimony that the data is "statistically significant." This article describes the relationship between this scientific standard of proof and the legal standards of proof. Section II describes these legal standards, first in the conventional language of the law and then in the terminology of statistical decision theory. Section III describes the technical concept of statistical significance and shows the impossibility, in general, of equating statistical significance with legally satisfactory proof. What follows from this analysis is, I hope, the beginning of a clearer understanding of how statistical methods for measuring the probative force of data can help the trier of fact decide whether the proponent of the data has fulfilled the appropriate burden of persuasion.
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