An exposition of the false confidence theorem

by   Iain Carmichael, et al.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

A recent paper presents the "false confidence theorem" (FCT) which has potentially broad implications for statistical inference using Bayesian posterior uncertainty. This theorem says that with arbitrarily large (sampling/frequentist) probability, there exists a set which does not contain the true parameter value, but which has arbitrarily large posterior probability. Since the use of Bayesian methods has become increasingly popular in applications of science, engineering, and business, it is critically important to understand when Bayesian procedures lead to problematic statistical inferences or interpretations. In this paper, we consider a number of examples demonstrating the paradoxical nature of false confidence to begin to understand the contexts in which the FCT does (and does not) play a meaningful role in statistical inference. Our examples illustrate that models involving marginalization to non-linear, not one-to-one functions of multiple parameters play a key role in more extreme manifestations of false confidence.


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