Beetles: Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief

54 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2017 Last revised: 2 Jan 2018

See all articles by George Akerlof

George Akerlof

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy

Pascal Michaillat

Brown University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2017

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.

JEL Classification: I23, M51, Z13

Suggested Citation

Akerlof, George and Michaillat, Pascal, Beetles: Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief (December 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12514. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3089771

George Akerlof (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy ( email )

Old North, Suite 100
37th & O Streets NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

Pascal Michaillat

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.pascalmichaillat.org

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