Getting Bayesian ideas across to a wide audience

Cowgill, G.L. (2002) Getting Bayesian ideas across to a wide audience. Archeologia e Calcolatori, 13. pp. 191-196. ISSN 1120-6861


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A generally Bayesian attitude toward statistical inference seems to me so obviously superior to the “classical” Neyman-Pearson approach that it is difficult to comprehend why not everyone agrees. I believe that most non-statisticians learn classical procedures ritualistically but then interpret their results in naively Bayesian ways. It would be better if they became more sophisticated and knowing Bayesians. A truly introductory text on the logic of Bayesian inference, with some simple but useful applications, would probably help. Bayesian inference with an uninformative prior may yield the same results as classical inference, but with coherent rather than muddled logic. An example of a very useful but mathematically simple archaeological application of an informative prior is using prior information to improve estimates of true proportions of artifact categories in populations represented by small collections. However, a complication arises when the observed proportion in a fairly large sample is well outside the range considered at all likely for the relevant population, based on prior information. In this case, straightforward use of a beta prior distribution can yield results that seem unreasonable. Possibly our prior information is better represented by a modified beta distribution with “heavy” tails. Advice about this problem would be appreciated.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Djindjian F., Moscati P. (eds.), XIV UISPP Congress (Liège - Belgium 2001). Proceedings of Commission IV Symposia. Data Management and Mathematical Methods in Archaeology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Statistics; theoretical and methodological problems
Subjects: 900 Storia, Geografia e discipline ausiliarie > 930 Storia dei mondo antico fino al 499 ca. > 930.1 Archeologia (Classificare qui la Storia fino al 4000 a.C., l'Archeologia preistorica, le opere interdisciplinari sull'Archeologia) > 930.102 Archeologia - Opere miscellanee > 930.1028 Archeologia – Tecniche, metodologie, apparecchi e strumenti (comprende: Archeometria) > 930.10285 Archeologia – Applicazioni informatiche (comprende: tecniche di datazione)
Depositing User: Dott.ssa Paola Moscati
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2009
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 10:03

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