Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief

Beetles: Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief by George Akerlof, Pascal Michaillat – #23523 (LS PR)


This paper develops a theory of promotion based on evaluations by the
already promoted. The already promoted show some favoritism toward
candidates for promotion 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.
Our main application is to scientific revolutions: when tenured
scientists show favoritism toward candidates for tenure 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. We find that
the scientific fields at risk of being captured by false paradigms
are those with low power. Another application is to hierarchical
organizations: egg-eating bias can result in the capture of the top
of organizations by the wrong-minded.

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4 Responses to Biased Promotions and Persistence of False Belief

  1. conrad says:

    Isn’t this just defining in- and out-group bias (perhaps the first rule of social psychology) as egg-eating bias?

    • Conrad
      Could it have something to do with this?

      In 1964 the English biologist William Hamilton put forward his “relatedness hypothesis”, a major landmark in kin selection theory. His hypothesis was that worker bees, wasps and ants do not reproduce because most workers are half sisters. Instead the workers favor the queen’s male progeny, since she has mated with multiple males, ensuring variation in the species. According to this theory, a species where the mother queen mates with multiple males would have more worker policing. This theory is widespread and in animal behavior textbooks.

  2. Nicholas Gruen says:

    I presume so Conrad

    Remember he’s an economist. He’s not required to read other disciplines. Indeed, Akerlof has Saint-like status inside the discipline because he tries. But he doesn’t try very hard. And you can tell that he’s worried that if a tree fell in a remote forest and no-one was there to put it into a toy model, it might not have fallen at all.

  3. Quick Google throws up a text on egg-eating bias in bee hives, that if it goes too far can cause problems, i think ,its hard to read on a phone .

    It could also be a Swiftian useage I guess

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