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The lure of incredible certitude

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2019

Charles F. Manski*
Department of Economics and Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA


Forthright characterization of scientific uncertainty is important in principle and in practice. Nevertheless, economists and other researchers commonly report findings with incredible certitude, reporting point predictions and estimates. To motivate expression of incredible certitude, economists suggest that researchers respond to incentives that make the practice tempting. This temptation is the ‘lure’ of incredible certitude. I appraise some of the rationales that observers may have in mind when they state that incredible certitude responds to incentives. I conclude that scientific expression of incredible certitude at most has appeal in limited contexts. It should not be a general practice.

© Cambridge University Press 2019

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