Toward Error-Statistical Principles of Evidence in Statistical Inference
Jinn, Nicole Mee-Hyaang
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The context for this research is statistical inference, the process of making predictions or inferences about a population from observation and analyses of a sample. In this context, many researchers want to grasp what inferences can be made that are valid, in the sense of being able to uphold or justify by argument or evidence. Another pressing question among users of statistical methods is: how can spurious relationships be distinguished from genuine ones? Underlying both of these issues is the concept of evidence. In response to these (and similar) questions, two questions I work on in this essay are: (1) what is a genuine principle of evidence? and (2) do error probabilities have more than a long-run role? Concisely, I propose that felicitous genuine principles of evidence should provide concrete guidelines on precisely how to examine error probabilities, with respect to a test's aptitude for unmasking pertinent errors, which leads to establishing sound interpretations of results from statistical techniques. The starting point for my definition of genuine principles of evidence is Allan Birnbaum's confidence concept, an attempt to control misleading interpretations. However, Birnbaum's confidence concept is inadequate for interpreting statistical evidence, because using only pre-data error probabilities would not pick up on a test's ability to detect a discrepancy of interest (e.g., "even if the discrepancy exists" with respect to the actual outcome. Instead, I argue that Deborah Mayo's severity assessment is the most suitable characterization of evidence based on my definition of genuine principles of evidence.
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