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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Economics and other sciences use null hypothesis statistical significance testing without a loss function and avoid asking “how big is a big loss or gain?.” Statistical significance is not equivalent to economic significance; the mistake is evident when one reflects that the estimated payoff from a lottery is not the same as the odds of winning that lottery. Yet a widespread failure to make the distinction between an estimate of human consequence and an estimate of its probability—between the meaning of an estimated average and the random variance around it—is killing people in medicine and impoverishing people in economics. The ethical problem created by a test of statistical significance is made worse by the method’s blatant illogic at the foundational level, a fact unacknowledged by most of those depending on it. Several changes to the literature and a recent Supreme Court decision could help.

Keywords: ethics, statistical significance, oomph, Matrixx v. Siracusano, Fisher, Gosset

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