# Is there a place in Bayesian confirmation theory for the Reverse Matthew Effect?

*Synthese*195 (4):1631-1648 (2018)

**Abstract**

Bayesian confirmation theory is rife with confirmation measures. Many of them differ from each other in important respects. It turns out, though, that all the standard confirmation measures in the literature run counter to the so-called “Reverse Matthew Effect” (“RME” for short). Suppose, to illustrate, that H1 and H2 are equally successful in predicting E in that p(E | H1)/p(E) = p(E | H2)/p(E) > 1. Suppose, further, that initially H1 is less probable than H2 in that p(H1) < p(H2). Then by RME it follows that the degree to which E confirms H1 is greater than the degree to which it confirms H2. But by all the standard confirmation measures in the literature, in contrast, it follows that the degree to which E confirms H1 is less than or equal to the degree to which it confirms H2. It might seem, then, that RME should be rejected as implausible. Festa (2012), however, argues that there are scientific contexts in which RME holds. If Festa’s argument is sound, it follows that there are scientific contexts in which none of the standard confirmation measures in the literature is adequate. Festa’s argument is thus interesting, important, and deserving of careful examination. I consider five distinct respects in which E can be related to H, use them to construct five distinct ways of understanding confirmation measures, which I call “Increase in Probability”, “Partial Dependence”, “Partial Entailment”, “Partial Discrimination”, and “Popper Corroboration”, and argue that each such way runs counter to RME. The result is that it is not at all clear that there is a place in Bayesian confirmation theory for RME.

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Archival date: 2017-03-02

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References found in this work BETA

The Foundations of Causal Decision Theory.Joyce, James M.

Ockham’s Razors: A User’s Manual.Sober, Elliott

Tracking Truth: Knowledge, Evidence, and Science.Roush, Sherrilyn

The Plurality of Bayesian Measures of Confirmation and the Problem of Measure Sensitivity.Fitelson, Branden

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2016-12-17

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