Discrimination-Conduciveness and Observation Selection Effects

Philosophers' Imprint 19:1-26 (2019)
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Abstract

We conceptualize observation selection effects (OSEs) by considering how a shift from one process of observation to another affects discrimination-conduciveness, by which we mean the degree to which possible observations discriminate between hypotheses, given the observation process at work. OSEs in this sense come in degrees and are causal, where the cause is the shift in process, and the effect is a change in degree of discrimination-conduciveness. We contrast our understanding of OSEs with others that have appeared in the literature. After describing conditions of adequacy that an acceptable measure of degree of discrimination-conduciveness must satisfy, we use those conditions of adequacy to evaluate several possible measures. We also discuss how the effect of shifting from one observation process to another might be measured. We apply our framework to several examples, including the ravens paradox and the phenomenon of publication bias.

Author Profiles

William Roche
Texas Christian University
Elliott Sober
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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