The Garden of Forking Paths

March 28, 2021 |

The garden of forking paths: Why multiple comparisons can be a
problem, even when there is no “fishing expedition” or “p-hacking” and
the research hypothesis was posited ahead of time
 Andrew Gelman† and Eric Loken‡ 14 Nov 2013

Researcher degrees of freedom can lead to a multiple comparisons
problem, even in settings where researchers perform only a single
analysis on their data. The problem is there can be a large number of
potential comparisons when the details of data analysis are highly
contingent on data, without the researcher having to perform any
conscious procedure of fishing or examining multiple p-values. We
discuss in the context of several examples of published papers where
data-analysis decisions were theoretically-motivated based on previous
literature, but where the details of data selection and analysis were
not pre-specified and, as a result, were contingent on data.


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