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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6 years ago

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

John R Walker
6 years ago
Reply to  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.

John r Walker
6 years ago

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

Phil Clark
Phil Clark
6 years ago

I think the authors are pointing out that most people, in particular those with power, will gravitate to those who agree with them, the You Tube video, “Rules for Rulers” gives a great example of the bassis of this idea. It would require a group with an unusual devotion to there profession to put forward someone who could potentially undo a life times work or undermine a fundermental principle into the fold.