Journal Article

How to Discount Double-Counting When It Counts: Some Clarifications

Deborah G. Mayo

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 59, issue 4, pages 857-879
Published in print December 2008 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2008 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
How to Discount Double-Counting When It Counts: Some Clarifications

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  • Philosophy of Science
  • Science and Mathematics


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The issues of double-counting, use-constructing, and selection effects have long been the subject of debate in the philosophical as well as statistical literature. I have argued that it is the severity, stringency, or probativeness of the test—or lack of it—that should determine if a double-use of data is admissible. Hitchcock and Sober ([2004]) question whether this ‘severity criterion' can perform its intended job. I argue that their criticisms stem from a flawed interpretation of the severity criterion. Taking their criticism as a springboard, I elucidate some of the central examples that have long been controversial, and clarify how the severity criterion is properly applied to them.

Severity and Use-Constructing: Four Points (and Some Clarificatory Notes) 1.1

Point 1: Getting beyond ‘all or nothing’ standpoints


Point 2: The rationale for prohibiting double-counting is the requirement that tests be severe


Point 3: Evaluate severity of a test T by its associated construction rule R


Point 4: The ease of passing vs. ease of erroneous passing: Statistical vs. ‘Definitional’ probability

The False Dilemma: Hitchcock and Sober 2.1

Marsha measures her desk reliably


A false dilemma

Canonical Errors of Inference 3.1

How construction rules may alter the error-probing performance of tests


Rules for accounting for anomalies


Hunting for statistically significant differences

Concluding Remarks

Journal Article.  9462 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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