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The Lure of Incredible Certitude (WP-18-20)

Charles F. Manski

Forthright characterization of scientific uncertainty is important in principle and serves important practical purposes. Nevertheless, economists and other researchers commonly report findings with incredible certitude, reporting point predictions and estimates. To motivate expression of incredible certitude, economists often suggest that researchers respond to incentives that make the practice tempting. This temptation is the "lure" of incredible certitude. Manski fleshes out and appraises some of the rationales that observers may have in mind when they state that incredible certitude responds to incentives. He concludes that scientific expression of incredible certitude at most has appeal in certain limited contexts. It should not be a general practice.

Charles F. Manski, Board of Trustees Professor in Economics and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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