Eating Each Other's Eggs and the Persistence of False Belief
George Akerlof, Pascal Michaillat
This paper develops a model of promotion to tenure based on evaluations by the already tenured. Scientists show favoritism toward other scientists with similar beliefs (just as beetles are more prone to eat the eggs of other species). With such bias, science may not converge to the truth. Furthermore, such forces in hierarchical organizations can similarly result in capture at the top by the wrong-minded. The paper expands on the statistical notion of power, which ignores such "egg-eating biases," and thus misses the social forces at play in the evaluation of scientific hypotheses. Our measure of "effective power" depends jointly on statistical power, the composition of the population of scientists, the favor-their-own-kind biases of evaluators, and also the norms regarding the appropriate tests to use in promotion.