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## Null & Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions, Templates & Examples

Published on May 6, 2022 by Shaun Turney . Revised on June 22, 2023.

The null and alternative hypotheses are two competing claims that researchers weigh evidence for and against using a statistical test :

- Null hypothesis ( H 0 ): There’s no effect in the population .
- Alternative hypothesis ( H a or H 1 ) : There’s an effect in the population.

## Table of contents

Answering your research question with hypotheses, what is a null hypothesis, what is an alternative hypothesis, similarities and differences between null and alternative hypotheses, how to write null and alternative hypotheses, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions.

The null and alternative hypotheses offer competing answers to your research question . When the research question asks “Does the independent variable affect the dependent variable?”:

- The null hypothesis ( H 0 ) answers “No, there’s no effect in the population.”
- The alternative hypothesis ( H a ) answers “Yes, there is an effect in the population.”

The null and alternative are always claims about the population. That’s because the goal of hypothesis testing is to make inferences about a population based on a sample . Often, we infer whether there’s an effect in the population by looking at differences between groups or relationships between variables in the sample. It’s critical for your research to write strong hypotheses .

You can use a statistical test to decide whether the evidence favors the null or alternative hypothesis. Each type of statistical test comes with a specific way of phrasing the null and alternative hypothesis. However, the hypotheses can also be phrased in a general way that applies to any test.

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The null hypothesis is the claim that there’s no effect in the population.

If the sample provides enough evidence against the claim that there’s no effect in the population ( p ≤ α), then we can reject the null hypothesis . Otherwise, we fail to reject the null hypothesis.

Although “fail to reject” may sound awkward, it’s the only wording that statisticians accept . Be careful not to say you “prove” or “accept” the null hypothesis.

Null hypotheses often include phrases such as “no effect,” “no difference,” or “no relationship.” When written in mathematical terms, they always include an equality (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

You can never know with complete certainty whether there is an effect in the population. Some percentage of the time, your inference about the population will be incorrect. When you incorrectly reject the null hypothesis, it’s called a type I error . When you incorrectly fail to reject it, it’s a type II error.

## Examples of null hypotheses

The table below gives examples of research questions and null hypotheses. There’s always more than one way to answer a research question, but these null hypotheses can help you get started.

( ) | ||

Does tooth flossing affect the number of cavities? | Tooth flossing has on the number of cavities. | test: The mean number of cavities per person does not differ between the flossing group (µ ) and the non-flossing group (µ ) in the population; µ = µ . |

Does the amount of text highlighted in the textbook affect exam scores? | The amount of text highlighted in the textbook has on exam scores. | : There is no relationship between the amount of text highlighted and exam scores in the population; β = 0. |

Does daily meditation decrease the incidence of depression? | Daily meditation the incidence of depression.* | test: The proportion of people with depression in the daily-meditation group ( ) is greater than or equal to the no-meditation group ( ) in the population; ≥ . |

*Note that some researchers prefer to always write the null hypothesis in terms of “no effect” and “=”. It would be fine to say that daily meditation has no effect on the incidence of depression and p 1 = p 2 .

The alternative hypothesis ( H a ) is the other answer to your research question . It claims that there’s an effect in the population.

Often, your alternative hypothesis is the same as your research hypothesis. In other words, it’s the claim that you expect or hope will be true.

The alternative hypothesis is the complement to the null hypothesis. Null and alternative hypotheses are exhaustive, meaning that together they cover every possible outcome. They are also mutually exclusive, meaning that only one can be true at a time.

Alternative hypotheses often include phrases such as “an effect,” “a difference,” or “a relationship.” When alternative hypotheses are written in mathematical terms, they always include an inequality (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >). As with null hypotheses, there are many acceptable ways to phrase an alternative hypothesis.

## Examples of alternative hypotheses

The table below gives examples of research questions and alternative hypotheses to help you get started with formulating your own.

Does tooth flossing affect the number of cavities? | Tooth flossing has an on the number of cavities. | test: The mean number of cavities per person differs between the flossing group (µ ) and the non-flossing group (µ ) in the population; µ ≠ µ . |

Does the amount of text highlighted in a textbook affect exam scores? | The amount of text highlighted in the textbook has an on exam scores. | : There is a relationship between the amount of text highlighted and exam scores in the population; β ≠ 0. |

Does daily meditation decrease the incidence of depression? | Daily meditation the incidence of depression. | test: The proportion of people with depression in the daily-meditation group ( ) is less than the no-meditation group ( ) in the population; < . |

Null and alternative hypotheses are similar in some ways:

- They’re both answers to the research question.
- They both make claims about the population.
- They’re both evaluated by statistical tests.

However, there are important differences between the two types of hypotheses, summarized in the following table.

A claim that there is in the population. | A claim that there is in the population. | |

| ||

Equality symbol (=, ≥, or ≤) | Inequality symbol (≠, <, or >) | |

Rejected | Supported | |

Failed to reject | Not supported |

To help you write your hypotheses, you can use the template sentences below. If you know which statistical test you’re going to use, you can use the test-specific template sentences. Otherwise, you can use the general template sentences.

## General template sentences

The only thing you need to know to use these general template sentences are your dependent and independent variables. To write your research question, null hypothesis, and alternative hypothesis, fill in the following sentences with your variables:

Does independent variable affect dependent variable ?

- Null hypothesis ( H 0 ): Independent variable does not affect dependent variable.
- Alternative hypothesis ( H a ): Independent variable affects dependent variable.

## Test-specific template sentences

Once you know the statistical test you’ll be using, you can write your hypotheses in a more precise and mathematical way specific to the test you chose. The table below provides template sentences for common statistical tests.

( ) | ||

test
with two groups | The mean dependent variable does not differ between group 1 (µ ) and group 2 (µ ) in the population; µ = µ . | The mean dependent variable differs between group 1 (µ ) and group 2 (µ ) in the population; µ ≠ µ . |

with three groups | The mean dependent variable does not differ between group 1 (µ ), group 2 (µ ), and group 3 (µ ) in the population; µ = µ = µ . | The mean dependent variable of group 1 (µ ), group 2 (µ ), and group 3 (µ ) are not all equal in the population. |

There is no correlation between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; ρ = 0. | There is a correlation between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; ρ ≠ 0. | |

There is no relationship between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; β = 0. | There is a relationship between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; β ≠ 0. | |

Two-proportions test | The dependent variable expressed as a proportion does not differ between group 1 ( ) and group 2 ( ) in the population; = . | The dependent variable expressed as a proportion differs between group 1 ( ) and group 2 ( ) in the population; ≠ . |

Note: The template sentences above assume that you’re performing one-tailed tests . One-tailed tests are appropriate for most studies.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

- Normal distribution
- Descriptive statistics
- Measures of central tendency
- Correlation coefficient

Methodology

- Cluster sampling
- Stratified sampling
- Types of interviews
- Cohort study
- Thematic analysis

Research bias

- Implicit bias
- Cognitive bias
- Survivorship bias
- Availability heuristic
- Nonresponse bias
- Regression to the mean

Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.

Null and alternative hypotheses are used in statistical hypothesis testing . The null hypothesis of a test always predicts no effect or no relationship between variables, while the alternative hypothesis states your research prediction of an effect or relationship.

The null hypothesis is often abbreviated as H 0 . When the null hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an equality symbol (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

The alternative hypothesis is often abbreviated as H a or H 1 . When the alternative hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an inequality symbol (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >).

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (“ x affects y because …”).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses . In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

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## 6 Hypothesis Examples in Psychology

The hypothesis is one of the most important steps of psychological research. Hypothesis refers to an assumption or the temporary statement made by the researcher before the execution of the experiment, regarding the possible outcome of that experiment. A hypothesis can be tested through various scientific and statistical tools. It is a logical guess based on previous knowledge and investigations related to the problem under investigation. In this article, we’ll learn about the significance of the hypothesis, the sources of the hypothesis, and the various examples of the hypothesis.

## Sources of Hypothesis

The formulation of a good hypothesis is not an easy task. One needs to take care of the various crucial steps to get an accurate hypothesis. The hypothesis formulation demands both the creativity of the researcher and his/her years of experience. The researcher needs to use critical thinking to avoid committing any errors such as choosing the wrong hypothesis. Although the hypothesis is considered the first step before further investigations such as data collection for the experiment, the hypothesis formulation also requires some amount of data collection. The data collection for the hypothesis formulation refers to the review of literature related to the concerned topic, and understanding of the previous research on the related topic. Following are some of the main sources of the hypothesis that may help the researcher to formulate a good hypothesis.

- Reviewing the similar studies and literature related to a similar problem.
- Examining the available data concerned with the problem.
- Discussing the problem with the colleagues, or the professional researchers about the problem under investigation.
- Thorough research and investigation by conducting field interviews or surveys on the people that are directly concerned with the problem under investigation.
- Sometimes ‘institution’ of the well known and experienced researcher is also considered as a good source of the hypothesis formulation.

## Real Life Hypothesis Examples

1. null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis examples.

Every research problem-solving procedure begins with the formulation of the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis. The alternative hypothesis assumes the existence of the relationship between the variables under study, while the null hypothesis denies the relationship between the variables under study. Following are examples of the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis based on the research problem.

Research Problem: What is the benefit of eating an apple daily on your health?

Alternative Hypothesis: Eating an apple daily reduces the chances of visiting the doctor.

Null Hypothesis : Eating an apple daily does not impact the frequency of visiting the doctor.

Research Problem: What is the impact of spending a lot of time on mobiles on the attention span of teenagers.

Alternative Problem: Spending time on the mobiles and attention span have a negative correlation.

Null Hypothesis: There does not exist any correlation between the use of mobile by teenagers on their attention span.

Research Problem: What is the impact of providing flexible working hours to the employees on the job satisfaction level.

Alternative Hypothesis : Employees who get the option of flexible working hours have better job satisfaction than the employees who don’t get the option of flexible working hours.

Null Hypothesis: There is no association between providing flexible working hours and job satisfaction.

## 2. Simple Hypothesis Examples

The hypothesis that includes only one independent variable (predictor variable) and one dependent variable (outcome variable) is termed the simple hypothesis. For example, the children are more likely to get clinical depression if their parents had also suffered from the clinical depression. Here, the independent variable is the parents suffering from clinical depression and the dependent or the outcome variable is the clinical depression observed in their child/children. Other examples of the simple hypothesis are given below,

- If the management provides the official snack breaks to the employees, the employees are less likely to take the off-site breaks. Here, providing snack breaks is the independent variable and the employees are less likely to take the off-site break is the dependent variable.

## 3. Complex Hypothesis Examples

If the hypothesis includes more than one independent (predictor variable) or more than one dependent variable (outcome variable) it is known as the complex hypothesis. For example, clinical depression in children is associated with a family clinical depression history and a stressful and hectic lifestyle. In this case, there are two independent variables, i.e., family history of clinical depression and hectic and stressful lifestyle, and one dependent variable, i.e., clinical depression. Following are some more examples of the complex hypothesis,

## 4. Logical Hypothesis Examples

If there are not many pieces of evidence and studies related to the concerned problem, then the researcher can take the help of the general logic to formulate the hypothesis. The logical hypothesis is proved true through various logic. For example, if the researcher wants to prove that the animal needs water for its survival, then this can be logically verified through the logic that ‘living beings can not survive without the water.’ Following are some more examples of logical hypotheses,

- Tia is not good at maths, hence she will not choose the accounting sector as her career.
- If there is a correlation between skin cancer and ultraviolet rays, then the people who are more exposed to the ultraviolet rays are more prone to skin cancer.
- The beings belonging to the different planets can not breathe in the earth’s atmosphere.
- The creatures living in the sea use anaerobic respiration as those living outside the sea use aerobic respiration.

## 5. Empirical Hypothesis Examples

The empirical hypothesis comes into existence when the statement is being tested by conducting various experiments. This hypothesis is not just an idea or notion, instead, it refers to the statement that undergoes various trials and errors, and various extraneous variables can impact the result. The trials and errors provide a set of results that can be testable over time. Following are the examples of the empirical hypothesis,

- The hungry cat will quickly reach the endpoint through the maze, if food is placed at the endpoint then the cat is not hungry.
- The people who consume vitamin c have more glowing skin than the people who consume vitamin E.
- Hair growth is faster after the consumption of Vitamin E than vitamin K.
- Plants will grow faster with fertilizer X than with fertilizer Y.

## 6. Statistical Hypothesis Examples

The statements that can be proven true by using the various statistical tools are considered the statistical hypothesis. The researcher uses statistical data about an area or the group in the analysis of the statistical hypothesis. For example, if you study the IQ level of the women belonging to nation X, it would be practically impossible to measure the IQ level of each woman belonging to nation X. Here, statistical methods come to the rescue. The researcher can choose the sample population, i.e., women belonging to the different states or provinces of the nation X, and conduct the statistical tests on this sample population to get the average IQ of the women belonging to the nation X. Following are the examples of the statistical hypothesis.

- 30 per cent of the women belonging to the nation X are working.
- 50 per cent of the people living in the savannah are above the age of 70 years.
- 45 per cent of the poor people in the United States are uneducated.

## Significance of Hypothesis

A hypothesis is very crucial in experimental research as it aims to predict any particular outcome of the experiment. Hypothesis plays an important role in guiding the researchers to focus on the concerned area of research only. However, the hypothesis is not required by all researchers. The type of research that seeks for finding facts, i.e., historical research, does not need the formulation of the hypothesis. In the historical research, the researchers look for the pieces of evidence related to the human life, the history of a particular area, or the occurrence of any event, this means that the researcher does not have a strong basis to make an assumption in these types of researches, hence hypothesis is not needed in this case. As stated by Hillway (1964)

When fact-finding alone is the aim of the study, a hypothesis is not required.”

The hypothesis may not be an important part of the descriptive or historical studies, but it is a crucial part for the experimental researchers. Following are some of the points that show the importance of formulating a hypothesis before conducting the experiment.

- Hypothesis provides a tentative statement about the outcome of the experiment that can be validated and tested. It helps the researcher to directly focus on the problem under investigation by collecting the relevant data according to the variables mentioned in the hypothesis.
- Hypothesis facilitates a direction to the experimental research. It helps the researcher in analysing what is relevant for the study and what’s not. It prevents the researcher’s time as he does not need to waste time on reviewing the irrelevant research and literature, and also prevents the researcher from collecting the irrelevant data.
- Hypothesis helps the researcher in choosing the appropriate sample, statistical tests to conduct, variables to be studied and the research methodology. The hypothesis also helps the study from being generalised as it focuses on the limited and exact problem under investigation.
- Hypothesis act as a framework for deducing the outcomes of the experiment. The researcher can easily test the different hypotheses for understanding the interaction among the various variables involved in the study. On this basis of the results obtained from the testing of various hypotheses, the researcher can formulate the final meaningful report.

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- Knowledge Base
- Null and Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions & Examples

## Null and Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions & Examples

Published on 5 October 2022 by Shaun Turney . Revised on 6 December 2022.

The null and alternative hypotheses are two competing claims that researchers weigh evidence for and against using a statistical test :

- Null hypothesis (H 0 ): There’s no effect in the population .
- Alternative hypothesis (H A ): There’s an effect in the population.

The effect is usually the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable .

## Table of contents

Answering your research question with hypotheses, what is a null hypothesis, what is an alternative hypothesis, differences between null and alternative hypotheses, how to write null and alternative hypotheses, frequently asked questions about null and alternative hypotheses.

The null and alternative hypotheses offer competing answers to your research question . When the research question asks “Does the independent variable affect the dependent variable?”, the null hypothesis (H 0 ) answers “No, there’s no effect in the population.” On the other hand, the alternative hypothesis (H A ) answers “Yes, there is an effect in the population.”

The null and alternative are always claims about the population. That’s because the goal of hypothesis testing is to make inferences about a population based on a sample . Often, we infer whether there’s an effect in the population by looking at differences between groups or relationships between variables in the sample.

You can use a statistical test to decide whether the evidence favors the null or alternative hypothesis. Each type of statistical test comes with a specific way of phrasing the null and alternative hypothesis. However, the hypotheses can also be phrased in a general way that applies to any test.

The null hypothesis is the claim that there’s no effect in the population.

If the sample provides enough evidence against the claim that there’s no effect in the population ( p ≤ α), then we can reject the null hypothesis . Otherwise, we fail to reject the null hypothesis.

Although “fail to reject” may sound awkward, it’s the only wording that statisticians accept. Be careful not to say you “prove” or “accept” the null hypothesis.

Null hypotheses often include phrases such as “no effect”, “no difference”, or “no relationship”. When written in mathematical terms, they always include an equality (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

## Examples of null hypotheses

The table below gives examples of research questions and null hypotheses. There’s always more than one way to answer a research question, but these null hypotheses can help you get started.

( ) | ||

Does tooth flossing affect the number of cavities? | Tooth flossing has on the number of cavities. | test: The mean number of cavities per person does not differ between the flossing group (µ ) and the non-flossing group (µ ) in the population; µ = µ . |

Does the amount of text highlighted in the textbook affect exam scores? | The amount of text highlighted in the textbook has on exam scores. | : There is no relationship between the amount of text highlighted and exam scores in the population; β = 0. |

Does daily meditation decrease the incidence of depression? | Daily meditation the incidence of depression.* | test: The proportion of people with depression in the daily-meditation group ( ) is greater than or equal to the no-meditation group ( ) in the population; ≥ . |

*Note that some researchers prefer to always write the null hypothesis in terms of “no effect” and “=”. It would be fine to say that daily meditation has no effect on the incidence of depression and p 1 = p 2 .

The alternative hypothesis (H A ) is the other answer to your research question . It claims that there’s an effect in the population.

Often, your alternative hypothesis is the same as your research hypothesis. In other words, it’s the claim that you expect or hope will be true.

The alternative hypothesis is the complement to the null hypothesis. Null and alternative hypotheses are exhaustive, meaning that together they cover every possible outcome. They are also mutually exclusive, meaning that only one can be true at a time.

Alternative hypotheses often include phrases such as “an effect”, “a difference”, or “a relationship”. When alternative hypotheses are written in mathematical terms, they always include an inequality (usually ≠, but sometimes > or <). As with null hypotheses, there are many acceptable ways to phrase an alternative hypothesis.

## Examples of alternative hypotheses

The table below gives examples of research questions and alternative hypotheses to help you get started with formulating your own.

Does tooth flossing affect the number of cavities? | Tooth flossing has an on the number of cavities. | test: The mean number of cavities per person differs between the flossing group (µ ) and the non-flossing group (µ ) in the population; µ ≠ µ . |

Does the amount of text highlighted in a textbook affect exam scores? | The amount of text highlighted in the textbook has an on exam scores. | : There is a relationship between the amount of text highlighted and exam scores in the population; β ≠ 0. |

Does daily meditation decrease the incidence of depression? | Daily meditation the incidence of depression. | test: The proportion of people with depression in the daily-meditation group ( ) is less than the no-meditation group ( ) in the population; < . |

Null and alternative hypotheses are similar in some ways:

- They’re both answers to the research question
- They both make claims about the population
- They’re both evaluated by statistical tests.

However, there are important differences between the two types of hypotheses, summarized in the following table.

A claim that there is in the population. | A claim that there is in the population. | |

| ||

Equality symbol (=, ≥, or ≤) | Inequality symbol (≠, <, or >) | |

Rejected | Supported | |

Failed to reject | Not supported |

To help you write your hypotheses, you can use the template sentences below. If you know which statistical test you’re going to use, you can use the test-specific template sentences. Otherwise, you can use the general template sentences.

The only thing you need to know to use these general template sentences are your dependent and independent variables. To write your research question, null hypothesis, and alternative hypothesis, fill in the following sentences with your variables:

Does independent variable affect dependent variable ?

- Null hypothesis (H 0 ): Independent variable does not affect dependent variable .
- Alternative hypothesis (H A ): Independent variable affects dependent variable .

## Test-specific

Once you know the statistical test you’ll be using, you can write your hypotheses in a more precise and mathematical way specific to the test you chose. The table below provides template sentences for common statistical tests.

( ) | ||

test
with two groups | The mean dependent variable does not differ between group 1 (µ ) and group 2 (µ ) in the population; µ = µ . | The mean dependent variable differs between group 1 (µ ) and group 2 (µ ) in the population; µ ≠ µ . |

with three groups | The mean dependent variable does not differ between group 1 (µ ), group 2 (µ ), and group 3 (µ ) in the population; µ = µ = µ . | The mean dependent variable of group 1 (µ ), group 2 (µ ), and group 3 (µ ) are not all equal in the population. |

There is no correlation between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; ρ = 0. | There is a correlation between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; ρ ≠ 0. | |

There is no relationship between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; β = 0. | There is a relationship between independent variable and dependent variable in the population; β ≠ 0. | |

Two-proportions test | The dependent variable expressed as a proportion does not differ between group 1 ( ) and group 2 ( ) in the population; = . | The dependent variable expressed as a proportion differs between group 1 ( ) and group 2 ( ) in the population; ≠ . |

Note: The template sentences above assume that you’re performing one-tailed tests . One-tailed tests are appropriate for most studies.

The null hypothesis is often abbreviated as H 0 . When the null hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an equality symbol (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).

The alternative hypothesis is often abbreviated as H a or H 1 . When the alternative hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an inequality symbol (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >).

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (‘ x affects y because …’).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses. In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

## Cite this Scribbr article

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Turney, S. (2022, December 06). Null and Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 12 August 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/stats/null-and-alternative-hypothesis/

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## How to Write a Great Hypothesis

Hypothesis Definition, Format, Examples, and Tips

Verywell / Alex Dos Diaz

- The Scientific Method

## Hypothesis Format

Falsifiability of a hypothesis.

- Operationalization

## Hypothesis Types

Hypotheses examples.

- Collecting Data

A hypothesis is a tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables. It is a specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in a study. It is a preliminary answer to your question that helps guide the research process.

Consider a study designed to examine the relationship between sleep deprivation and test performance. The hypothesis might be: "This study is designed to assess the hypothesis that sleep-deprived people will perform worse on a test than individuals who are not sleep-deprived."

## At a Glance

A hypothesis is crucial to scientific research because it offers a clear direction for what the researchers are looking to find. This allows them to design experiments to test their predictions and add to our scientific knowledge about the world. This article explores how a hypothesis is used in psychology research, how to write a good hypothesis, and the different types of hypotheses you might use.

## The Hypothesis in the Scientific Method

In the scientific method , whether it involves research in psychology, biology, or some other area, a hypothesis represents what the researchers think will happen in an experiment. The scientific method involves the following steps:

- Forming a question
- Performing background research
- Creating a hypothesis
- Designing an experiment
- Collecting data
- Analyzing the results
- Drawing conclusions
- Communicating the results

The hypothesis is a prediction, but it involves more than a guess. Most of the time, the hypothesis begins with a question which is then explored through background research. At this point, researchers then begin to develop a testable hypothesis.

Unless you are creating an exploratory study, your hypothesis should always explain what you expect to happen.

In a study exploring the effects of a particular drug, the hypothesis might be that researchers expect the drug to have some type of effect on the symptoms of a specific illness. In psychology, the hypothesis might focus on how a certain aspect of the environment might influence a particular behavior.

Remember, a hypothesis does not have to be correct. While the hypothesis predicts what the researchers expect to see, the goal of the research is to determine whether this guess is right or wrong. When conducting an experiment, researchers might explore numerous factors to determine which ones might contribute to the ultimate outcome.

In many cases, researchers may find that the results of an experiment do not support the original hypothesis. When writing up these results, the researchers might suggest other options that should be explored in future studies.

In many cases, researchers might draw a hypothesis from a specific theory or build on previous research. For example, prior research has shown that stress can impact the immune system. So a researcher might hypothesize: "People with high-stress levels will be more likely to contract a common cold after being exposed to the virus than people who have low-stress levels."

In other instances, researchers might look at commonly held beliefs or folk wisdom. "Birds of a feather flock together" is one example of folk adage that a psychologist might try to investigate. The researcher might pose a specific hypothesis that "People tend to select romantic partners who are similar to them in interests and educational level."

## Elements of a Good Hypothesis

So how do you write a good hypothesis? When trying to come up with a hypothesis for your research or experiments, ask yourself the following questions:

- Is your hypothesis based on your research on a topic?
- Can your hypothesis be tested?
- Does your hypothesis include independent and dependent variables?

Before you come up with a specific hypothesis, spend some time doing background research. Once you have completed a literature review, start thinking about potential questions you still have. Pay attention to the discussion section in the journal articles you read . Many authors will suggest questions that still need to be explored.

## How to Formulate a Good Hypothesis

To form a hypothesis, you should take these steps:

- Collect as many observations about a topic or problem as you can.
- Evaluate these observations and look for possible causes of the problem.
- Create a list of possible explanations that you might want to explore.
- After you have developed some possible hypotheses, think of ways that you could confirm or disprove each hypothesis through experimentation. This is known as falsifiability.

In the scientific method , falsifiability is an important part of any valid hypothesis. In order to test a claim scientifically, it must be possible that the claim could be proven false.

Students sometimes confuse the idea of falsifiability with the idea that it means that something is false, which is not the case. What falsifiability means is that if something was false, then it is possible to demonstrate that it is false.

One of the hallmarks of pseudoscience is that it makes claims that cannot be refuted or proven false.

## The Importance of Operational Definitions

A variable is a factor or element that can be changed and manipulated in ways that are observable and measurable. However, the researcher must also define how the variable will be manipulated and measured in the study.

Operational definitions are specific definitions for all relevant factors in a study. This process helps make vague or ambiguous concepts detailed and measurable.

For example, a researcher might operationally define the variable " test anxiety " as the results of a self-report measure of anxiety experienced during an exam. A "study habits" variable might be defined by the amount of studying that actually occurs as measured by time.

These precise descriptions are important because many things can be measured in various ways. Clearly defining these variables and how they are measured helps ensure that other researchers can replicate your results.

## Replicability

One of the basic principles of any type of scientific research is that the results must be replicable.

Replication means repeating an experiment in the same way to produce the same results. By clearly detailing the specifics of how the variables were measured and manipulated, other researchers can better understand the results and repeat the study if needed.

Some variables are more difficult than others to define. For example, how would you operationally define a variable such as aggression ? For obvious ethical reasons, researchers cannot create a situation in which a person behaves aggressively toward others.

To measure this variable, the researcher must devise a measurement that assesses aggressive behavior without harming others. The researcher might utilize a simulated task to measure aggressiveness in this situation.

## Hypothesis Checklist

- Does your hypothesis focus on something that you can actually test?
- Does your hypothesis include both an independent and dependent variable?
- Can you manipulate the variables?
- Can your hypothesis be tested without violating ethical standards?

The hypothesis you use will depend on what you are investigating and hoping to find. Some of the main types of hypotheses that you might use include:

- Simple hypothesis : This type of hypothesis suggests there is a relationship between one independent variable and one dependent variable.
- Complex hypothesis : This type suggests a relationship between three or more variables, such as two independent and dependent variables.
- Null hypothesis : This hypothesis suggests no relationship exists between two or more variables.
- Alternative hypothesis : This hypothesis states the opposite of the null hypothesis.
- Statistical hypothesis : This hypothesis uses statistical analysis to evaluate a representative population sample and then generalizes the findings to the larger group.
- Logical hypothesis : This hypothesis assumes a relationship between variables without collecting data or evidence.

A hypothesis often follows a basic format of "If {this happens} then {this will happen}." One way to structure your hypothesis is to describe what will happen to the dependent variable if you change the independent variable .

The basic format might be: "If {these changes are made to a certain independent variable}, then we will observe {a change in a specific dependent variable}."

## A few examples of simple hypotheses:

- "Students who eat breakfast will perform better on a math exam than students who do not eat breakfast."
- "Students who experience test anxiety before an English exam will get lower scores than students who do not experience test anxiety."
- "Motorists who talk on the phone while driving will be more likely to make errors on a driving course than those who do not talk on the phone."
- "Children who receive a new reading intervention will have higher reading scores than students who do not receive the intervention."

## Examples of a complex hypothesis include:

- "People with high-sugar diets and sedentary activity levels are more likely to develop depression."
- "Younger people who are regularly exposed to green, outdoor areas have better subjective well-being than older adults who have limited exposure to green spaces."

## Examples of a null hypothesis include:

- "There is no difference in anxiety levels between people who take St. John's wort supplements and those who do not."
- "There is no difference in scores on a memory recall task between children and adults."
- "There is no difference in aggression levels between children who play first-person shooter games and those who do not."

## Examples of an alternative hypothesis:

- "People who take St. John's wort supplements will have less anxiety than those who do not."
- "Adults will perform better on a memory task than children."
- "Children who play first-person shooter games will show higher levels of aggression than children who do not."

## Collecting Data on Your Hypothesis

Once a researcher has formed a testable hypothesis, the next step is to select a research design and start collecting data. The research method depends largely on exactly what they are studying. There are two basic types of research methods: descriptive research and experimental research.

## Descriptive Research Methods

Descriptive research such as case studies , naturalistic observations , and surveys are often used when conducting an experiment is difficult or impossible. These methods are best used to describe different aspects of a behavior or psychological phenomenon.

Once a researcher has collected data using descriptive methods, a correlational study can examine how the variables are related. This research method might be used to investigate a hypothesis that is difficult to test experimentally.

## Experimental Research Methods

Experimental methods are used to demonstrate causal relationships between variables. In an experiment, the researcher systematically manipulates a variable of interest (known as the independent variable) and measures the effect on another variable (known as the dependent variable).

Unlike correlational studies, which can only be used to determine if there is a relationship between two variables, experimental methods can be used to determine the actual nature of the relationship—whether changes in one variable actually cause another to change.

The hypothesis is a critical part of any scientific exploration. It represents what researchers expect to find in a study or experiment. In situations where the hypothesis is unsupported by the research, the research still has value. Such research helps us better understand how different aspects of the natural world relate to one another. It also helps us develop new hypotheses that can then be tested in the future.

Thompson WH, Skau S. On the scope of scientific hypotheses . R Soc Open Sci . 2023;10(8):230607. doi:10.1098/rsos.230607

Taran S, Adhikari NKJ, Fan E. Falsifiability in medicine: what clinicians can learn from Karl Popper [published correction appears in Intensive Care Med. 2021 Jun 17;:]. Intensive Care Med . 2021;47(9):1054-1056. doi:10.1007/s00134-021-06432-z

Eyler AA. Research Methods for Public Health . 1st ed. Springer Publishing Company; 2020. doi:10.1891/9780826182067.0004

Nosek BA, Errington TM. What is replication ? PLoS Biol . 2020;18(3):e3000691. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3000691

Aggarwal R, Ranganathan P. Study designs: Part 2 - Descriptive studies . Perspect Clin Res . 2019;10(1):34-36. doi:10.4103/picr.PICR_154_18

Nevid J. Psychology: Concepts and Applications. Wadworth, 2013.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

Inferential Statistics

## Learning Objectives

- Explain the purpose of null hypothesis testing, including the role of sampling error.
- Describe the basic logic of null hypothesis testing.
- Describe the role of relationship strength and sample size in determining statistical significance and make reasonable judgments about statistical significance based on these two factors.

## The Purpose of Null Hypothesis Testing

As we have seen, psychological research typically involves measuring one or more variables in a sample and computing descriptive summary data (e.g., means, correlation coefficients) for those variables. These descriptive data for the sample are called statistics . In general, however, the researcher’s goal is not to draw conclusions about that sample but to draw conclusions about the population that the sample was selected from. Thus researchers must use sample statistics to draw conclusions about the corresponding values in the population. These corresponding values in the population are called parameters . Imagine, for example, that a researcher measures the number of depressive symptoms exhibited by each of 50 adults with clinical depression and computes the mean number of symptoms. The researcher probably wants to use this sample statistic (the mean number of symptoms for the sample) to draw conclusions about the corresponding population parameter (the mean number of symptoms for adults with clinical depression).

Unfortunately, sample statistics are not perfect estimates of their corresponding population parameters. This is because there is a certain amount of random variability in any statistic from sample to sample. The mean number of depressive symptoms might be 8.73 in one sample of adults with clinical depression, 6.45 in a second sample, and 9.44 in a third—even though these samples are selected randomly from the same population. Similarly, the correlation (Pearson’s r ) between two variables might be +.24 in one sample, −.04 in a second sample, and +.15 in a third—again, even though these samples are selected randomly from the same population. This random variability in a statistic from sample to sample is called sampling error . (Note that the term error here refers to random variability and does not imply that anyone has made a mistake. No one “commits a sampling error.”)

One implication of this is that when there is a statistical relationship in a sample, it is not always clear that there is a statistical relationship in the population. A small difference between two group means in a sample might indicate that there is a small difference between the two group means in the population. But it could also be that there is no difference between the means in the population and that the difference in the sample is just a matter of sampling error. Similarly, a Pearson’s r value of −.29 in a sample might mean that there is a negative relationship in the population. But it could also be that there is no relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample is just a matter of sampling error.

In fact, any statistical relationship in a sample can be interpreted in two ways:

- There is a relationship in the population, and the relationship in the sample reflects this.
- There is no relationship in the population, and the relationship in the sample reflects only sampling error.

The purpose of null hypothesis testing is simply to help researchers decide between these two interpretations.

## The Logic of Null Hypothesis Testing

Null hypothesis testing (often called null hypothesis significance testing or NHST) is a formal approach to deciding between two interpretations of a statistical relationship in a sample. One interpretation is called the null hypothesis (often symbolized H 0 and read as “H-zero”). This is the idea that there is no relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample reflects only sampling error. Informally, the null hypothesis is that the sample relationship “occurred by chance.” The other interpretation is called the alternative hypothesis (often symbolized as H 1 ). This is the idea that there is a relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample reflects this relationship in the population.

Again, every statistical relationship in a sample can be interpreted in either of these two ways: It might have occurred by chance, or it might reflect a relationship in the population. So researchers need a way to decide between them. Although there are many specific null hypothesis testing techniques, they are all based on the same general logic. The steps are as follows:

- Assume for the moment that the null hypothesis is true. There is no relationship between the variables in the population.
- Determine how likely the sample relationship would be if the null hypothesis were true.
- If the sample relationship would be extremely unlikely, then reject the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis. If it would not be extremely unlikely, then retain the null hypothesis .

Following this logic, we can begin to understand why Mehl and his colleagues concluded that there is no difference in talkativeness between women and men in the population. In essence, they asked the following question: “If there were no difference in the population, how likely is it that we would find a small difference of d = 0.06 in our sample?” Their answer to this question was that this sample relationship would be fairly likely if the null hypothesis were true. Therefore, they retained the null hypothesis—concluding that there is no evidence of a sex difference in the population. We can also see why Kanner and his colleagues concluded that there is a correlation between hassles and symptoms in the population. They asked, “If the null hypothesis were true, how likely is it that we would find a strong correlation of +.60 in our sample?” Their answer to this question was that this sample relationship would be fairly unlikely if the null hypothesis were true. Therefore, they rejected the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis—concluding that there is a positive correlation between these variables in the population.

A crucial step in null hypothesis testing is finding the probability of the sample result or a more extreme result if the null hypothesis were true (Lakens, 2017). [1] This probability is called the p value . A low p value means that the sample or more extreme result would be unlikely if the null hypothesis were true and leads to the rejection of the null hypothesis. A p value that is not low means that the sample or more extreme result would be likely if the null hypothesis were true and leads to the retention of the null hypothesis. But how low must the p value criterion be before the sample result is considered unlikely enough to reject the null hypothesis? In null hypothesis testing, this criterion is called α (alpha) and is almost always set to .05. If there is a 5% chance or less of a result at least as extreme as the sample result if the null hypothesis were true, then the null hypothesis is rejected. When this happens, the result is said to be statistically significant . If there is greater than a 5% chance of a result as extreme as the sample result when the null hypothesis is true, then the null hypothesis is retained. This does not necessarily mean that the researcher accepts the null hypothesis as true—only that there is not currently enough evidence to reject it. Researchers often use the expression “fail to reject the null hypothesis” rather than “retain the null hypothesis,” but they never use the expression “accept the null hypothesis.”

## The Misunderstood p Value

The p value is one of the most misunderstood quantities in psychological research (Cohen, 1994) [2] . Even professional researchers misinterpret it, and it is not unusual for such misinterpretations to appear in statistics textbooks!

The most common misinterpretation is that the p value is the probability that the null hypothesis is true—that the sample result occurred by chance. For example, a misguided researcher might say that because the p value is .02, there is only a 2% chance that the result is due to chance and a 98% chance that it reflects a real relationship in the population. But this is incorrect . The p value is really the probability of a result at least as extreme as the sample result if the null hypothesis were true. So a p value of .02 means that if the null hypothesis were true, a sample result this extreme would occur only 2% of the time.

You can avoid this misunderstanding by remembering that the p value is not the probability that any particular hypothesis is true or false. Instead, it is the probability of obtaining the sample result if the null hypothesis were true.

## Role of Sample Size and Relationship Strength

Recall that null hypothesis testing involves answering the question, “If the null hypothesis were true, what is the probability of a sample result as extreme as this one?” In other words, “What is the p value?” It can be helpful to see that the answer to this question depends on just two considerations: the strength of the relationship and the size of the sample. Specifically, the stronger the sample relationship and the larger the sample, the less likely the result would be if the null hypothesis were true. That is, the lower the p value. This should make sense. Imagine a study in which a sample of 500 women is compared with a sample of 500 men in terms of some psychological characteristic, and Cohen’s d is a strong 0.50. If there were really no sex difference in the population, then a result this strong based on such a large sample should seem highly unlikely. Now imagine a similar study in which a sample of three women is compared with a sample of three men, and Cohen’s d is a weak 0.10. If there were no sex difference in the population, then a relationship this weak based on such a small sample should seem likely. And this is precisely why the null hypothesis would be rejected in the first example and retained in the second.

Of course, sometimes the result can be weak and the sample large, or the result can be strong and the sample small. In these cases, the two considerations trade off against each other so that a weak result can be statistically significant if the sample is large enough and a strong relationship can be statistically significant even if the sample is small. Table 13.1 shows roughly how relationship strength and sample size combine to determine whether a sample result is statistically significant. The columns of the table represent the three levels of relationship strength: weak, medium, and strong. The rows represent four sample sizes that can be considered small, medium, large, and extra large in the context of psychological research. Thus each cell in the table represents a combination of relationship strength and sample size. If a cell contains the word Yes , then this combination would be statistically significant for both Cohen’s d and Pearson’s r . If it contains the word No , then it would not be statistically significant for either. There is one cell where the decision for d and r would be different and another where it might be different depending on some additional considerations, which are discussed in Section 13.2 “Some Basic Null Hypothesis Tests”

Sample Size | Weak | Medium | Strong |

Small ( = 20) | No | No | = Maybe = Yes |

Medium ( = 50) | No | Yes | Yes |

Large ( = 100) | = Yes = No | Yes | Yes |

Extra large ( = 500) | Yes | Yes | Yes |

Although Table 13.1 provides only a rough guideline, it shows very clearly that weak relationships based on medium or small samples are never statistically significant and that strong relationships based on medium or larger samples are always statistically significant. If you keep this lesson in mind, you will often know whether a result is statistically significant based on the descriptive statistics alone. It is extremely useful to be able to develop this kind of intuitive judgment. One reason is that it allows you to develop expectations about how your formal null hypothesis tests are going to come out, which in turn allows you to detect problems in your analyses. For example, if your sample relationship is strong and your sample is medium, then you would expect to reject the null hypothesis. If for some reason your formal null hypothesis test indicates otherwise, then you need to double-check your computations and interpretations. A second reason is that the ability to make this kind of intuitive judgment is an indication that you understand the basic logic of this approach in addition to being able to do the computations.

## Statistical Significance Versus Practical Significance

Table 13.1 illustrates another extremely important point. A statistically significant result is not necessarily a strong one. Even a very weak result can be statistically significant if it is based on a large enough sample. This is closely related to Janet Shibley Hyde’s argument about sex differences (Hyde, 2007) [3] . The differences between women and men in mathematical problem solving and leadership ability are statistically significant. But the word significant can cause people to interpret these differences as strong and important—perhaps even important enough to influence the college courses they take or even who they vote for. As we have seen, however, these statistically significant differences are actually quite weak—perhaps even “trivial.”

This is why it is important to distinguish between the statistical significance of a result and the practical significance of that result. Practical significance refers to the importance or usefulness of the result in some real-world context. Many sex differences are statistically significant—and may even be interesting for purely scientific reasons—but they are not practically significant. In clinical practice, this same concept is often referred to as “clinical significance.” For example, a study on a new treatment for social phobia might show that it produces a statistically significant positive effect. Yet this effect still might not be strong enough to justify the time, effort, and other costs of putting it into practice—especially if easier and cheaper treatments that work almost as well already exist. Although statistically significant, this result would be said to lack practical or clinical significance.

## Image Description

“Null Hypothesis” long description: A comic depicting a man and a woman talking in the foreground. In the background is a child working at a desk. The man says to the woman, “I can’t believe schools are still teaching kids about the null hypothesis. I remember reading a big study that conclusively disproved it years ago.” [Return to “Null Hypothesis”]

“Conditional Risk” long description: A comic depicting two hikers beside a tree during a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning goes “crack” in the dark sky as thunder booms. One of the hikers says, “Whoa! We should get inside!” The other hiker says, “It’s okay! Lightning only kills about 45 Americans a year, so the chances of dying are only one in 7,000,000. Let’s go on!” The comic’s caption says, “The annual death rate among people who know that statistic is one in six.” [Return to “Conditional Risk”]

## Media Attributions

- Null Hypothesis by XKCD CC BY-NC (Attribution NonCommercial)
- Conditional Risk by XKCD CC BY-NC (Attribution NonCommercial)
- Lakens, D. (2017, December 25). About p -values: Understanding common misconceptions. [Blog post] Retrieved from https://correlaid.org/en/blog/understand-p-values/ ↵
- Cohen, J. (1994). The world is round: p < .05. American Psychologist, 49 , 997–1003. ↵
- Hyde, J. S. (2007). New directions in the study of gender similarities and differences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16 , 259–263. ↵

Descriptive data that involves measuring one or more variables in a sample and computing descriptive summary data (e.g., means, correlation coefficients) for those variables.

Corresponding values in the population.

The random variability in a statistic from sample to sample.

A formal approach to deciding between two interpretations of a statistical relationship in a sample.

The idea that there is no relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample reflects only sampling error (often symbolized H0 and read as “H-zero”).

An alternative to the null hypothesis (often symbolized as H1), this hypothesis proposes that there is a relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample reflects this relationship in the population.

A decision made by researchers using null hypothesis testing which occurs when the sample relationship would be extremely unlikely.

A decision made by researchers in null hypothesis testing which occurs when the sample relationship would not be extremely unlikely.

The probability of obtaining the sample result or a more extreme result if the null hypothesis were true.

The criterion that shows how low a p-value should be before the sample result is considered unlikely enough to reject the null hypothesis (Usually set to .05).

An effect that is unlikely due to random chance and therefore likely represents a real effect in the population.

Refers to the importance or usefulness of the result in some real-world context.

Research Methods in Psychology Copyright © 2019 by Rajiv S. Jhangiani, I-Chant A. Chiang, Carrie Cuttler, & Dana C. Leighton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

## Share This Book

## 9.1 Null and Alternative Hypotheses

The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses . They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis . These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints.

H 0 , the — null hypothesis: a statement of no difference between sample means or proportions or no difference between a sample mean or proportion and a population mean or proportion. In other words, the difference equals 0.

H a —, the alternative hypothesis: a claim about the population that is contradictory to H 0 and what we conclude when we reject H 0 .

Since the null and alternative hypotheses are contradictory, you must examine evidence to decide if you have enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis or not. The evidence is in the form of sample data.

After you have determined which hypothesis the sample supports, you make a decision. There are two options for a decision. They are reject H 0 if the sample information favors the alternative hypothesis or do not reject H 0 or decline to reject H 0 if the sample information is insufficient to reject the null hypothesis.

Mathematical Symbols Used in H 0 and H a :

equal (=) | not equal (≠) greater than (>) less than (<) |

greater than or equal to (≥) | less than (<) |

less than or equal to (≤) | more than (>) |

H 0 always has a symbol with an equal in it. H a never has a symbol with an equal in it. The choice of symbol depends on the wording of the hypothesis test. However, be aware that many researchers use = in the null hypothesis, even with > or < as the symbol in the alternative hypothesis. This practice is acceptable because we only make the decision to reject or not reject the null hypothesis.

## Example 9.1

H 0 : No more than 30 percent of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. p ≤ 30 H a : More than 30 percent of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. p > 30

A medical trial is conducted to test whether or not a new medicine reduces cholesterol by 25 percent. State the null and alternative hypotheses.

## Example 9.2

We want to test whether the mean GPA of students in American colleges is different from 2.0 (out of 4.0). The null and alternative hypotheses are the following: H 0 : μ = 2.0 H a : μ ≠ 2.0

We want to test whether the mean height of eighth graders is 66 inches. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol (=, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

- H 0 : μ __ 66
- H a : μ __ 66

## Example 9.3

We want to test if college students take fewer than five years to graduate from college, on the average. The null and alternative hypotheses are the following: H 0 : μ ≥ 5 H a : μ < 5

We want to test if it takes fewer than 45 minutes to teach a lesson plan. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol ( =, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

- H 0 : μ __ 45
- H a : μ __ 45

## Example 9.4

An article on school standards stated that about half of all students in France, Germany, and Israel take advanced placement exams and a third of the students pass. The same article stated that 6.6 percent of U.S. students take advanced placement exams and 4.4 percent pass. Test if the percentage of U.S. students who take advanced placement exams is more than 6.6 percent. State the null and alternative hypotheses. H 0 : p ≤ 0.066 H a : p > 0.066

On a state driver’s test, about 40 percent pass the test on the first try. We want to test if more than 40 percent pass on the first try. Fill in the correct symbol (=, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses.

- H 0 : p __ 0.40
- H a : p __ 0.40

## Collaborative Exercise

Bring to class a newspaper, some news magazines, and some internet articles. In groups, find articles from which your group can write null and alternative hypotheses. Discuss your hypotheses with the rest of the class.

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## 13.1 Understanding Null Hypothesis Testing

Learning objectives.

- Explain the purpose of null hypothesis testing, including the role of sampling error.
- Describe the basic logic of null hypothesis testing.
- Describe the role of relationship strength and sample size in determining statistical significance and make reasonable judgments about statistical significance based on these two factors.

## The Purpose of Null Hypothesis Testing

As we have seen, psychological research typically involves measuring one or more variables in a sample and computing descriptive statistics for that sample. In general, however, the researcher’s goal is not to draw conclusions about that sample but to draw conclusions about the population that the sample was selected from. Thus researchers must use sample statistics to draw conclusions about the corresponding values in the population. These corresponding values in the population are called parameters . Imagine, for example, that a researcher measures the number of depressive symptoms exhibited by each of 50 adults with clinical depression and computes the mean number of symptoms. The researcher probably wants to use this sample statistic (the mean number of symptoms for the sample) to draw conclusions about the corresponding population parameter (the mean number of symptoms for adults with clinical depression).

Unfortunately, sample statistics are not perfect estimates of their corresponding population parameters. This is because there is a certain amount of random variability in any statistic from sample to sample. The mean number of depressive symptoms might be 8.73 in one sample of adults with clinical depression, 6.45 in a second sample, and 9.44 in a third—even though these samples are selected randomly from the same population. Similarly, the correlation (Pearson’s r ) between two variables might be +.24 in one sample, −.04 in a second sample, and +.15 in a third—again, even though these samples are selected randomly from the same population. This random variability in a statistic from sample to sample is called sampling error . (Note that the term error here refers to random variability and does not imply that anyone has made a mistake. No one “commits a sampling error.”)

One implication of this is that when there is a statistical relationship in a sample, it is not always clear that there is a statistical relationship in the population. A small difference between two group means in a sample might indicate that there is a small difference between the two group means in the population. But it could also be that there is no difference between the means in the population and that the difference in the sample is just a matter of sampling error. Similarly, a Pearson’s r value of −.29 in a sample might mean that there is a negative relationship in the population. But it could also be that there is no relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample is just a matter of sampling error.

In fact, any statistical relationship in a sample can be interpreted in two ways:

- There is a relationship in the population, and the relationship in the sample reflects this.
- There is no relationship in the population, and the relationship in the sample reflects only sampling error.

The purpose of null hypothesis testing is simply to help researchers decide between these two interpretations.

## The Logic of Null Hypothesis Testing

Null hypothesis testing is a formal approach to deciding between two interpretations of a statistical relationship in a sample. One interpretation is called the null hypothesis (often symbolized H 0 and read as “H-naught”). This is the idea that there is no relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample reflects only sampling error. Informally, the null hypothesis is that the sample relationship “occurred by chance.” The other interpretation is called the alternative hypothesis (often symbolized as H 1 ). This is the idea that there is a relationship in the population and that the relationship in the sample reflects this relationship in the population.

Again, every statistical relationship in a sample can be interpreted in either of these two ways: It might have occurred by chance, or it might reflect a relationship in the population. So researchers need a way to decide between them. Although there are many specific null hypothesis testing techniques, they are all based on the same general logic. The steps are as follows:

- Assume for the moment that the null hypothesis is true. There is no relationship between the variables in the population.
- Determine how likely the sample relationship would be if the null hypothesis were true.
- If the sample relationship would be extremely unlikely, then reject the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis. If it would not be extremely unlikely, then retain the null hypothesis .

Following this logic, we can begin to understand why Mehl and his colleagues concluded that there is no difference in talkativeness between women and men in the population. In essence, they asked the following question: “If there were no difference in the population, how likely is it that we would find a small difference of d = 0.06 in our sample?” Their answer to this question was that this sample relationship would be fairly likely if the null hypothesis were true. Therefore, they retained the null hypothesis—concluding that there is no evidence of a sex difference in the population. We can also see why Kanner and his colleagues concluded that there is a correlation between hassles and symptoms in the population. They asked, “If the null hypothesis were true, how likely is it that we would find a strong correlation of +.60 in our sample?” Their answer to this question was that this sample relationship would be fairly unlikely if the null hypothesis were true. Therefore, they rejected the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis—concluding that there is a positive correlation between these variables in the population.

A crucial step in null hypothesis testing is finding the likelihood of the sample result if the null hypothesis were true. This probability is called the p value . A low p value means that the sample result would be unlikely if the null hypothesis were true and leads to the rejection of the null hypothesis. A p value that is not low means that the sample result would be likely if the null hypothesis were true and leads to the retention of the null hypothesis. But how low must the p value be before the sample result is considered unlikely enough to reject the null hypothesis? In null hypothesis testing, this criterion is called α (alpha) and is almost always set to .05. If there is a 5% chance or less of a result as extreme as the sample result if the null hypothesis were true, then the null hypothesis is rejected. When this happens, the result is said to be statistically significant . If there is greater than a 5% chance of a result as extreme as the sample result when the null hypothesis is true, then the null hypothesis is retained. This does not necessarily mean that the researcher accepts the null hypothesis as true—only that there is not currently enough evidence to reject it. Researchers often use the expression “fail to reject the null hypothesis” rather than “retain the null hypothesis,” but they never use the expression “accept the null hypothesis.”

## The Misunderstood p Value

The p value is one of the most misunderstood quantities in psychological research (Cohen, 1994) [1] . Even professional researchers misinterpret it, and it is not unusual for such misinterpretations to appear in statistics textbooks!

The most common misinterpretation is that the p value is the probability that the null hypothesis is true—that the sample result occurred by chance. For example, a misguided researcher might say that because the p value is .02, there is only a 2% chance that the result is due to chance and a 98% chance that it reflects a real relationship in the population. But this is incorrect . The p value is really the probability of a result at least as extreme as the sample result if the null hypothesis were true. So a p value of .02 means that if the null hypothesis were true, a sample result this extreme would occur only 2% of the time.

You can avoid this misunderstanding by remembering that the p value is not the probability that any particular hypothesis is true or false. Instead, it is the probability of obtaining the sample result if the null hypothesis were true.

“Null Hypothesis” retrieved from http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/null_hypothesis.png (CC-BY-NC 2.5)

## Role of Sample Size and Relationship Strength

Recall that null hypothesis testing involves answering the question, “If the null hypothesis were true, what is the probability of a sample result as extreme as this one?” In other words, “What is the p value?” It can be helpful to see that the answer to this question depends on just two considerations: the strength of the relationship and the size of the sample. Specifically, the stronger the sample relationship and the larger the sample, the less likely the result would be if the null hypothesis were true. That is, the lower the p value. This should make sense. Imagine a study in which a sample of 500 women is compared with a sample of 500 men in terms of some psychological characteristic, and Cohen’s d is a strong 0.50. If there were really no sex difference in the population, then a result this strong based on such a large sample should seem highly unlikely. Now imagine a similar study in which a sample of three women is compared with a sample of three men, and Cohen’s d is a weak 0.10. If there were no sex difference in the population, then a relationship this weak based on such a small sample should seem likely. And this is precisely why the null hypothesis would be rejected in the first example and retained in the second.

Of course, sometimes the result can be weak and the sample large, or the result can be strong and the sample small. In these cases, the two considerations trade off against each other so that a weak result can be statistically significant if the sample is large enough and a strong relationship can be statistically significant even if the sample is small. Table 13.1 shows roughly how relationship strength and sample size combine to determine whether a sample result is statistically significant. The columns of the table represent the three levels of relationship strength: weak, medium, and strong. The rows represent four sample sizes that can be considered small, medium, large, and extra large in the context of psychological research. Thus each cell in the table represents a combination of relationship strength and sample size. If a cell contains the word Yes , then this combination would be statistically significant for both Cohen’s d and Pearson’s r . If it contains the word No , then it would not be statistically significant for either. There is one cell where the decision for d and r would be different and another where it might be different depending on some additional considerations, which are discussed in Section 13.2 “Some Basic Null Hypothesis Tests”

Sample Size | Weak | Medium | Strong |

Small ( = 20) | No | No | = Maybe = Yes |

Medium ( = 50) | No | Yes | Yes |

Large ( = 100) | = Yes = No | Yes | Yes |

Extra large ( = 500) | Yes | Yes | Yes |

Although Table 13.1 provides only a rough guideline, it shows very clearly that weak relationships based on medium or small samples are never statistically significant and that strong relationships based on medium or larger samples are always statistically significant. If you keep this lesson in mind, you will often know whether a result is statistically significant based on the descriptive statistics alone. It is extremely useful to be able to develop this kind of intuitive judgment. One reason is that it allows you to develop expectations about how your formal null hypothesis tests are going to come out, which in turn allows you to detect problems in your analyses. For example, if your sample relationship is strong and your sample is medium, then you would expect to reject the null hypothesis. If for some reason your formal null hypothesis test indicates otherwise, then you need to double-check your computations and interpretations. A second reason is that the ability to make this kind of intuitive judgment is an indication that you understand the basic logic of this approach in addition to being able to do the computations.

## Statistical Significance Versus Practical Significance

Table 13.1 illustrates another extremely important point. A statistically significant result is not necessarily a strong one. Even a very weak result can be statistically significant if it is based on a large enough sample. This is closely related to Janet Shibley Hyde’s argument about sex differences (Hyde, 2007) [2] . The differences between women and men in mathematical problem solving and leadership ability are statistically significant. But the word significant can cause people to interpret these differences as strong and important—perhaps even important enough to influence the college courses they take or even who they vote for. As we have seen, however, these statistically significant differences are actually quite weak—perhaps even “trivial.”

This is why it is important to distinguish between the statistical significance of a result and the practical significance of that result. Practical significance refers to the importance or usefulness of the result in some real-world context. Many sex differences are statistically significant—and may even be interesting for purely scientific reasons—but they are not practically significant. In clinical practice, this same concept is often referred to as “clinical significance.” For example, a study on a new treatment for social phobia might show that it produces a statistically significant positive effect. Yet this effect still might not be strong enough to justify the time, effort, and other costs of putting it into practice—especially if easier and cheaper treatments that work almost as well already exist. Although statistically significant, this result would be said to lack practical or clinical significance.

“Conditional Risk” retrieved from http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/conditional_risk.png (CC-BY-NC 2.5)

## Key Takeaways

- Null hypothesis testing is a formal approach to deciding whether a statistical relationship in a sample reflects a real relationship in the population or is just due to chance.
- The logic of null hypothesis testing involves assuming that the null hypothesis is true, finding how likely the sample result would be if this assumption were correct, and then making a decision. If the sample result would be unlikely if the null hypothesis were true, then it is rejected in favor of the alternative hypothesis. If it would not be unlikely, then the null hypothesis is retained.
- The probability of obtaining the sample result if the null hypothesis were true (the p value) is based on two considerations: relationship strength and sample size. Reasonable judgments about whether a sample relationship is statistically significant can often be made by quickly considering these two factors.
- Statistical significance is not the same as relationship strength or importance. Even weak relationships can be statistically significant if the sample size is large enough. It is important to consider relationship strength and the practical significance of a result in addition to its statistical significance.
- Discussion: Imagine a study showing that people who eat more broccoli tend to be happier. Explain for someone who knows nothing about statistics why the researchers would conduct a null hypothesis test.
- The correlation between two variables is r = −.78 based on a sample size of 137.
- The mean score on a psychological characteristic for women is 25 ( SD = 5) and the mean score for men is 24 ( SD = 5). There were 12 women and 10 men in this study.
- In a memory experiment, the mean number of items recalled by the 40 participants in Condition A was 0.50 standard deviations greater than the mean number recalled by the 40 participants in Condition B.
- In another memory experiment, the mean scores for participants in Condition A and Condition B came out exactly the same!
- A student finds a correlation of r = .04 between the number of units the students in his research methods class are taking and the students’ level of stress.
- Cohen, J. (1994). The world is round: p < .05. American Psychologist, 49 , 997–1003. ↵
- Hyde, J. S. (2007). New directions in the study of gender similarities and differences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16 , 259–263. ↵

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## AP®︎/College Statistics

Course: ap®︎/college statistics > unit 10.

- Idea behind hypothesis testing

## Examples of null and alternative hypotheses

- Writing null and alternative hypotheses
- P-values and significance tests
- Comparing P-values to different significance levels
- Estimating a P-value from a simulation
- Estimating P-values from simulations
- Using P-values to make conclusions

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## Video transcript

## If you could change one thing about college, what would it be?

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## Null vs. Alternative Hypothesis

04.28.2023 • 5 min read

## Sarah Thomas

Subject Matter Expert

Learn about a null versus alternative hypothesis and what they show with examples for each. Also go over the main differences and similarities between them.

In This Article

## What Is a Null Hypothesis?

What is an alternative hypothesis, outcomes of a hypothesis test.

Main Differences Between Null & Alternative Hypothesis

Similarities Between Null & Alternative Hypothesis

Hypothesis Testing & Errors

In statistics, you’ll draw insights or “inferences” about population parameters using data from a sample. This process is called inferential statistics.

To make statistical inferences, you need to determine if you have enough evidence to support a certain hypothesis about the population. This is where null and alternative hypotheses come into play!

In this article, we’ll explain the differences between these two types of hypotheses, and we’ll explain the role they play in hypothesis testing.

Imagine you want to know what percent of Americans are vegetarians. You find a Gallup poll claiming 5% of the population was vegetarian in 2018, but your intuition tells you vegetarianism is on the rise and that far more than 5% of Americans are vegetarian today.

To investigate further, you collect your own sample data by surveying 1,000 randomly selected Americans. You’ll use this random sample to determine whether it’s likely the true population proportion of vegetarians is, in fact, 5% (as the Gallup data suggests) or whether it could be the case that the percentage of vegetarians is now higher.

Notice that your investigation involves two rival hypotheses about the population. One hypothesis is that the proportion of vegetarians is 5%. The other hypothesis is that the proportion of vegetarians is greater than 5%. In statistics, we would call the first hypothesis the null hypothesis, and the second hypothesis the alternative hypothesis. The null hypothesis ( H 0 H_0 H 0 ) represents the status quo or what is assumed to be true about the population at the start of your investigation.

Null Hypothesis

In hypothesis testing, the null hypothesis ( H 0 H_0 H 0 ) is the default hypothesis.

It's what the status quo assumes to be true about the population.

The alternative hypothesis ( H a H_a H a or H 1 H_1 H 1 ) is the hypothesis that stands contrary to the null hypothesis. The alternative hypothesis represents the research hypothesis—what you as the statistician are trying to prove with your data .

In medical studies, where scientists are trying to demonstrate whether a treatment has a significant effect on patient outcomes, the alternative hypothesis represents the hypothesis that the treatment does have an effect, while the null hypothesis represents the assumption that the treatment has no effect.

Alternative Hypothesis

The alternative hypothesis ( H a H_a H a or H 1 H_1 H 1 ) is the hypothesis being proposed in opposition to the null hypothesis.

## Examples of Null and Alternative Hypotheses

In a hypothesis test, the null and alternative hypotheses must be mutually exclusive statements, meaning both hypotheses cannot be true at the same time. For example, if the null hypothesis includes an equal sign, the alternative hypothesis must state that the values being mentioned are “not equal” in some way.

Your hypotheses will also depend on the formulation of your test—are you running a one-sample T-test, a two-sample T-test, F-test for ANOVA , or a Chi-squared test? It also matters whether you are conducting a directional one-tailed test or a nondirectional two-tailed test.

## Example 1: Two-Tailed T-test

Null Hypothesis: The population mean is equal to some number, x. 𝝁 = x

Alternative Hypothesis: The population mean is not equal to x. 𝝁 ≠ x

## Example 2: One-tailed T-test (Right-Tailed)

Null Hypothesis: The population mean is less than or equal to some number, x. 𝝁 ≤ x Alternative Hypothesis: The population mean is greater than x. 𝝁 > x

## Example 3: One-tailed T-test (Left-Tailed)

Null Hypothesis: The population mean is greater than or equal to some number, x. 𝝁 ≥ x

Alternative Hypothesis: The population mean is less than x. 𝝁 < x

By the end of a hypothesis test, you will have reached one of two conclusions.

You will run into either 2 outcomes:

Fail to reject the null hypothesis on the grounds that there's insufficient evidence to move away from the null hypothesis

Reject the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative.

If you’re confused about the outcomes of a hypothesis test, a good analogy is a jury trial. In a jury trial, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. To reach a verdict of guilt, the jury must find strong evidence (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the defendant committed the crime.

This is analogous to a statistician who must assume the null hypothesis is true unless they can uncover strong evidence ( a p-value less than or equal to the significance level) in support of the alternative hypothesis.

Notice also, that a jury never concludes a defendant is innocent—only that the defendant is guilty or not guilty. This is similar to how we never conclude that the null hypothesis is true. In a hypothesis test, we never conclude that the null hypothesis is true. We can only “reject” the null hypothesis or “fail to reject” it.

In this video, let’s look at the jury example again, the reasoning behind hypothesis testing, and how to form a test. It starts by stating your null and alternative hypotheses.

## Main Differences Between Null and Alternative Hypothesis

Here is a summary of the key differences between the null and the alternative hypothesis test.

The null hypothesis represents the status quo; the alternative hypothesis represents an alternative statement about the population.

The null and the alternative are mutually exclusive statements, meaning both statements cannot be true at the same time.

In a medical study, the null hypothesis represents the assumption that a treatment has no statistically significant effect on the outcome being studied. The alternative hypothesis represents the belief that the treatment does have an effect.

The null hypothesis is denoted by H_0 ; the alternative hypothesis is denoted by H_a H_1

You “fail to reject” the null hypothesis when the p-value is larger than the significance level. You “reject” the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis when the p-value is less than or equal to your test’s significance level.

## Similarities Between Null and Alternative Hypothesis

The similarities between the null and alternative hypotheses are as follows.

Both the null and the alternative are statements about the same underlying data.

Both statements provide a possible answer to a statistician’s research question.

The same hypothesis test will provide evidence for or against the null and alternative hypotheses.

## Hypothesis Testing and Errors

Always remember that statistical inference provides you with inferences based on probability rather than hard truths. Anytime you conduct a hypothesis test, there is a chance that you’ll reach the wrong conclusion about your data.

In statistics, we categorize these wrong conclusions into two types of errors:

Type I Errors

Type II Errors

## Type I Error (ɑ)

A Type I error occurs when you reject the null hypothesis when, in fact, the null hypothesis is true. This is sometimes called a false positive and is analogous to a jury that falsely convicts an innocent defendant. The probability of making this type of error is represented by alpha, ɑ.

## Type II Error (ꞵ)

A Type II error occurs when you fail to reject the null hypothesis when, in fact, the null hypothesis is false. This is sometimes called a false negative and is analogous to a jury that reaches a verdict of “not guilty,” when, in fact, the defendant has committed the crime. The probability of making this type of error is represented by beta, ꞵ.

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Chapter 13: Inferential Statistics

## Some Basic Null Hypothesis Tests

Learning Objectives

- Conduct and interpret one-sample, dependent-samples, and independent-samples t tests.
- Interpret the results of one-way, repeated measures, and factorial ANOVAs.
- Conduct and interpret null hypothesis tests of Pearson’s r .

In this section, we look at several common null hypothesis testing procedures. The emphasis here is on providing enough information to allow you to conduct and interpret the most basic versions. In most cases, the online statistical analysis tools mentioned in Chapter 12 will handle the computations—as will programs such as Microsoft Excel and SPSS.

## The t Test

As we have seen throughout this book, many studies in psychology focus on the difference between two means. The most common null hypothesis test for this type of statistical relationship is the t test . In this section, we look at three types of t tests that are used for slightly different research designs: the one-sample t test, the dependent-samples t test, and the independent-samples t test.

## One-Sample t Test

The one-sample t test is used to compare a sample mean ( M ) with a hypothetical population mean (μ0) that provides some interesting standard of comparison. The null hypothesis is that the mean for the population (µ) is equal to the hypothetical population mean: μ = μ0. The alternative hypothesis is that the mean for the population is different from the hypothetical population mean: μ ≠ μ0. To decide between these two hypotheses, we need to find the probability of obtaining the sample mean (or one more extreme) if the null hypothesis were true. But finding this p value requires first computing a test statistic called t . (A test statistic is a statistic that is computed only to help find the p value.) The formula for t is as follows:

Again, M is the sample mean and µ 0 is the hypothetical population mean of interest. SD is the sample standard deviation and N is the sample size.

The reason the t statistic (or any test statistic) is useful is that we know how it is distributed when the null hypothesis is true. As shown in Figure 13.1, this distribution is unimodal and symmetrical, and it has a mean of 0. Its precise shape depends on a statistical concept called the degrees of freedom, which for a one-sample t test is N − 1. (There are 24 degrees of freedom for the distribution shown in Figure 13.1.) The important point is that knowing this distribution makes it possible to find the p value for any t score. Consider, for example, a t score of +1.50 based on a sample of 25. The probability of a t score at least this extreme is given by the proportion of t scores in the distribution that are at least this extreme. For now, let us define extreme as being far from zero in either direction. Thus the p value is the proportion of t scores that are +1.50 or above or that are −1.50 or below—a value that turns out to be .14.

Fortunately, we do not have to deal directly with the distribution of t scores. If we were to enter our sample data and hypothetical mean of interest into one of the online statistical tools in Chapter 12 or into a program like SPSS (Excel does not have a one-sample t test function), the output would include both the t score and the p value. At this point, the rest of the procedure is simple. If p is less than .05, we reject the null hypothesis and conclude that the population mean differs from the hypothetical mean of interest. If p is greater than .05, we retain the null hypothesis and conclude that there is not enough evidence to say that the population mean differs from the hypothetical mean of interest. (Again, technically, we conclude only that we do not have enough evidence to conclude that it does differ.)

If we were to compute the t score by hand, we could use a table like Table 13.2 to make the decision. This table does not provide actual p values. Instead, it provides the critical values of t for different degrees of freedom ( df) when α is .05. For now, let us focus on the two-tailed critical values in the last column of the table. Each of these values should be interpreted as a pair of values: one positive and one negative. For example, the two-tailed critical values when there are 24 degrees of freedom are +2.064 and −2.064. These are represented by the red vertical lines in Figure 13.1. The idea is that any t score below the lower critical value (the left-hand red line in Figure 13.1) is in the lowest 2.5% of the distribution, while any t score above the upper critical value (the right-hand red line) is in the highest 2.5% of the distribution. Therefore any t score beyond the critical value in either direction is in the most extreme 5% of t scores when the null hypothesis is true and has a p value less than .05. Thus if the t score we compute is beyond the critical value in either direction, then we reject the null hypothesis. If the t score we compute is between the upper and lower critical values, then we retain the null hypothesis.

One-tailed critical value | Two-tailed critical value | |
---|---|---|

3 | 2.353 | 3.182 |

4 | 2.132 | 2.776 |

5 | 2.015 | 2.571 |

6 | 1.943 | 2.447 |

7 | 1.895 | 2.365 |

8 | 1.860 | 2.306 |

9 | 1.833 | 2.262 |

10 | 1.812 | 2.228 |

11 | 1.796 | 2.201 |

12 | 1.782 | 2.179 |

13 | 1.771 | 2.160 |

14 | 1.761 | 2.145 |

15 | 1.753 | 2.131 |

16 | 1.746 | 2.120 |

17 | 1.740 | 2.110 |

18 | 1.734 | 2.101 |

19 | 1.729 | 2.093 |

20 | 1.725 | 2.086 |

21 | 1.721 | 2.080 |

22 | 1.717 | 2.074 |

23 | 1.714 | 2.069 |

24 | 1.711 | 2.064 |

25 | 1.708 | 2.060 |

30 | 1.697 | 2.042 |

35 | 1.690 | 2.030 |

40 | 1.684 | 2.021 |

45 | 1.679 | 2.014 |

50 | 1.676 | 2.009 |

60 | 1.671 | 2.000 |

70 | 1.667 | 1.994 |

80 | 1.664 | 1.990 |

90 | 1.662 | 1.987 |

100 | 1.660 | 1.984 |

Thus far, we have considered what is called a two-tailed test , where we reject the null hypothesis if the t score for the sample is extreme in either direction. This test makes sense when we believe that the sample mean might differ from the hypothetical population mean but we do not have good reason to expect the difference to go in a particular direction. But it is also possible to do a one-tailed test , where we reject the null hypothesis only if the t score for the sample is extreme in one direction that we specify before collecting the data. This test makes sense when we have good reason to expect the sample mean will differ from the hypothetical population mean in a particular direction.

Here is how it works. Each one-tailed critical value in Table 13.2 can again be interpreted as a pair of values: one positive and one negative. A t score below the lower critical value is in the lowest 5% of the distribution, and a t score above the upper critical value is in the highest 5% of the distribution. For 24 degrees of freedom, these values are −1.711 and +1.711. (These are represented by the green vertical lines in Figure 13.1.) However, for a one-tailed test, we must decide before collecting data whether we expect the sample mean to be lower than the hypothetical population mean, in which case we would use only the lower critical value, or we expect the sample mean to be greater than the hypothetical population mean, in which case we would use only the upper critical value. Notice that we still reject the null hypothesis when the t score for our sample is in the most extreme 5% of the t scores we would expect if the null hypothesis were true—so α remains at .05. We have simply redefined extreme to refer only to one tail of the distribution. The advantage of the one-tailed test is that critical values are less extreme. If the sample mean differs from the hypothetical population mean in the expected direction, then we have a better chance of rejecting the null hypothesis. The disadvantage is that if the sample mean differs from the hypothetical population mean in the unexpected direction, then there is no chance at all of rejecting the null hypothesis.

## Example One-Sample t Test

Imagine that a health psychologist is interested in the accuracy of university students’ estimates of the number of calories in a chocolate chip cookie. He shows the cookie to a sample of 10 students and asks each one to estimate the number of calories in it. Because the actual number of calories in the cookie is 250, this is the hypothetical population mean of interest (µ 0 ). The null hypothesis is that the mean estimate for the population (μ) is 250. Because he has no real sense of whether the students will underestimate or overestimate the number of calories, he decides to do a two-tailed test. Now imagine further that the participants’ actual estimates are as follows:

250, 280, 200, 150, 175, 200, 200, 220, 180, 250

The mean estimate for the sample ( M ) is 212.00 calories and the standard deviation ( SD ) is 39.17. The health psychologist can now compute the t score for his sample:

If he enters the data into one of the online analysis tools or uses SPSS, it would also tell him that the two-tailed p value for this t score (with 10 − 1 = 9 degrees of freedom) is .013. Because this is less than .05, the health psychologist would reject the null hypothesis and conclude that university students tend to underestimate the number of calories in a chocolate chip cookie. If he computes the t score by hand, he could look at Table 13.2 and see that the critical value of t for a two-tailed test with 9 degrees of freedom is ±2.262. The fact that his t score was more extreme than this critical value would tell him that his p value is less than .05 and that he should reject the null hypothesis.

Finally, if this researcher had gone into this study with good reason to expect that university students underestimate the number of calories, then he could have done a one-tailed test instead of a two-tailed test. The only thing this decision would change is the critical value, which would be −1.833. This slightly less extreme value would make it a bit easier to reject the null hypothesis. However, if it turned out that university students overestimate the number of calories—no matter how much they overestimate it—the researcher would not have been able to reject the null hypothesis.

## The Dependent-Samples t Test

The dependent-samples t test (sometimes called the paired-samples t test) is used to compare two means for the same sample tested at two different times or under two different conditions. This comparison is appropriate for pretest-posttest designs or within-subjects experiments. The null hypothesis is that the means at the two times or under the two conditions are the same in the population. The alternative hypothesis is that they are not the same. This test can also be one-tailed if the researcher has good reason to expect the difference goes in a particular direction.

It helps to think of the dependent-samples t test as a special case of the one-sample t test. However, the first step in the dependent-samples t test is to reduce the two scores for each participant to a single difference score by taking the difference between them. At this point, the dependent-samples t test becomes a one-sample t test on the difference scores. The hypothetical population mean (µ 0 ) of interest is 0 because this is what the mean difference score would be if there were no difference on average between the two times or two conditions. We can now think of the null hypothesis as being that the mean difference score in the population is 0 (µ 0 = 0) and the alternative hypothesis as being that the mean difference score in the population is not 0 (µ 0 ≠ 0).

## Example Dependent-Samples t Test

Imagine that the health psychologist now knows that people tend to underestimate the number of calories in junk food and has developed a short training program to improve their estimates. To test the effectiveness of this program, he conducts a pretest-posttest study in which 10 participants estimate the number of calories in a chocolate chip cookie before the training program and then again afterward. Because he expects the program to increase the participants’ estimates, he decides to do a one-tailed test. Now imagine further that the pretest estimates are

230, 250, 280, 175, 150, 200, 180, 210, 220, 190

and that the posttest estimates (for the same participants in the same order) are

250, 260, 250, 200, 160, 200, 200, 180, 230, 240

The difference scores, then, are as follows:

+20, +10, −30, +25, +10, 0, +20, −30, +10, +50

Note that it does not matter whether the first set of scores is subtracted from the second or the second from the first as long as it is done the same way for all participants. In this example, it makes sense to subtract the pretest estimates from the posttest estimates so that positive difference scores mean that the estimates went up after the training and negative difference scores mean the estimates went down.

The mean of the difference scores is 8.50 with a standard deviation of 27.27. The health psychologist can now compute the t score for his sample as follows:

If he enters the data into one of the online analysis tools or uses Excel or SPSS, it would tell him that the one-tailed p value for this t score (again with 10 − 1 = 9 degrees of freedom) is .148. Because this is greater than .05, he would retain the null hypothesis and conclude that the training program does not increase people’s calorie estimates. If he were to compute the t score by hand, he could look at Table 13.2 and see that the critical value of t for a one-tailed test with 9 degrees of freedom is +1.833. (It is positive this time because he was expecting a positive mean difference score.) The fact that his t score was less extreme than this critical value would tell him that his p value is greater than .05 and that he should fail to reject the null hypothesis.

## The Independent-Samples t Test

The independent-samples t test is used to compare the means of two separate samples ( M 1 and M 2 ). The two samples might have been tested under different conditions in a between-subjects experiment, or they could be preexisting groups in a correlational design (e.g., women and men, extraverts and introverts). The null hypothesis is that the means of the two populations are the same: µ 1 = µ 2 . The alternative hypothesis is that they are not the same: µ 1 ≠ µ 2 . Again, the test can be one-tailed if the researcher has good reason to expect the difference goes in a particular direction.

The t statistic here is a bit more complicated because it must take into account two sample means, two standard deviations, and two sample sizes. The formula is as follows:

Notice that this formula includes squared standard deviations (the variances) that appear inside the square root symbol. Also, lowercase n 1 and n 2 refer to the sample sizes in the two groups or condition (as opposed to capital N , which generally refers to the total sample size). The only additional thing to know here is that there are N − 2 degrees of freedom for the independent-samples t test.

## Example Independent-Samples t Test

Now the health psychologist wants to compare the calorie estimates of people who regularly eat junk food with the estimates of people who rarely eat junk food. He believes the difference could come out in either direction so he decides to conduct a two-tailed test. He collects data from a sample of eight participants who eat junk food regularly and seven participants who rarely eat junk food. The data are as follows:

Junk food eaters: 180, 220, 150, 85, 200, 170, 150, 190

Non–junk food eaters: 200, 240, 190, 175, 200, 300, 240

The mean for the junk food eaters is 220.71 with a standard deviation of 41.23. The mean for the non–junk food eaters is 168.12 with a standard deviation of 42.66. He can now compute his t score as follows:

If he enters the data into one of the online analysis tools or uses Excel or SPSS, it would tell him that the two-tailed p value for this t score (with 15 − 2 = 13 degrees of freedom) is .015. Because this p value is less than .05, the health psychologist would reject the null hypothesis and conclude that people who eat junk food regularly make lower calorie estimates than people who eat it rarely. If he were to compute the t score by hand, he could look at Table 13.2 and see that the critical value of t for a two-tailed test with 13 degrees of freedom is ±2.160. The fact that his t score was more extreme than this critical value would tell him that his p value is less than .05 and that he should fail to retain the null hypothesis.

## The Analysis of Variance

When there are more than two groups or condition means to be compared, the most common null hypothesis test is the analysis of variance (ANOVA) . In this section, we look primarily at the one-way ANOVA , which is used for between-subjects designs with a single independent variable. We then briefly consider some other versions of the ANOVA that are used for within-subjects and factorial research designs.

## One-Way ANOVA

The one-way ANOVA is used to compare the means of more than two samples ( M 1 , M 2 … M G ) in a between-subjects design. The null hypothesis is that all the means are equal in the population: µ 1 = µ 2 =…= µ G . The alternative hypothesis is that not all the means in the population are equal.

The test statistic for the ANOVA is called F . It is a ratio of two estimates of the population variance based on the sample data. One estimate of the population variance is called the mean squares between groups (MS B ) and is based on the differences among the sample means. The other is called the mean squares within groups (MS W ) and is based on the differences among the scores within each group. The F statistic is the ratio of the MS B to the MS W and can therefore be expressed as follows:

F = MS B ÷ MS W

Again, the reason that F is useful is that we know how it is distributed when the null hypothesis is true. As shown in Figure 13.2, this distribution is unimodal and positively skewed with values that cluster around 1. The precise shape of the distribution depends on both the number of groups and the sample size, and there is a degrees of freedom value associated with each of these. The between-groups degrees of freedom is the number of groups minus one: df B = ( G − 1). The within-groups degrees of freedom is the total sample size minus the number of groups: df W = N − G . Again, knowing the distribution of F when the null hypothesis is true allows us to find the p value.

The online tools in Chapter 12 and statistical software such as Excel and SPSS will compute F and find the p value. If p is less than .05, then we reject the null hypothesis and conclude that there are differences among the group means in the population. If p is greater than .05, then we retain the null hypothesis and conclude that there is not enough evidence to say that there are differences. In the unlikely event that we would compute F by hand, we can use a table of critical values like Table 13.3 “Table of Critical Values of ” to make the decision. The idea is that any F ratio greater than the critical value has a p value of less than .05. Thus if the F ratio we compute is beyond the critical value, then we reject the null hypothesis. If the F ratio we compute is less than the critical value, then we retain the null hypothesis.

2 | 3 | 4 | |
---|---|---|---|

8 | 4.459 | 4.066 | 3.838 |

9 | 4.256 | 3.863 | 3.633 |

10 | 4.103 | 3.708 | 3.478 |

11 | 3.982 | 3.587 | 3.357 |

12 | 3.885 | 3.490 | 3.259 |

13 | 3.806 | 3.411 | 3.179 |

14 | 3.739 | 3.344 | 3.112 |

15 | 3.682 | 3.287 | 3.056 |

16 | 3.634 | 3.239 | 3.007 |

17 | 3.592 | 3.197 | 2.965 |

18 | 3.555 | 3.160 | 2.928 |

19 | 3.522 | 3.127 | 2.895 |

20 | 3.493 | 3.098 | 2.866 |

21 | 3.467 | 3.072 | 2.840 |

22 | 3.443 | 3.049 | 2.817 |

23 | 3.422 | 3.028 | 2.796 |

24 | 3.403 | 3.009 | 2.776 |

25 | 3.385 | 2.991 | 2.759 |

30 | 3.316 | 2.922 | 2.690 |

35 | 3.267 | 2.874 | 2.641 |

40 | 3.232 | 2.839 | 2.606 |

45 | 3.204 | 2.812 | 2.579 |

50 | 3.183 | 2.790 | 2.557 |

55 | 3.165 | 2.773 | 2.540 |

60 | 3.150 | 2.758 | 2.525 |

65 | 3.138 | 2.746 | 2.513 |

70 | 3.128 | 2.736 | 2.503 |

75 | 3.119 | 2.727 | 2.494 |

80 | 3.111 | 2.719 | 2.486 |

85 | 3.104 | 2.712 | 2.479 |

90 | 3.098 | 2.706 | 2.473 |

95 | 3.092 | 2.700 | 2.467 |

100 | 3.087 | 2.696 | 2.463 |

## Example One-Way ANOVA

Imagine that the health psychologist wants to compare the calorie estimates of psychology majors, nutrition majors, and professional dieticians. He collects the following data:

Psych majors: 200, 180, 220, 160, 150, 200, 190, 200

Nutrition majors: 190, 220, 200, 230, 160, 150, 200, 210, 195

Dieticians: 220, 250, 240, 275, 250, 230, 200, 240

The means are 187.50 ( SD = 23.14), 195.00 ( SD = 27.77), and 238.13 ( SD = 22.35), respectively. So it appears that dieticians made substantially more accurate estimates on average. The researcher would almost certainly enter these data into a program such as Excel or SPSS, which would compute F for him and find the p value. Table 13.4 shows the output of the one-way ANOVA function in Excel for these data. This table is referred to as an ANOVA table. It shows that MS B is 5,971.88, MS W is 602.23, and their ratio, F , is 9.92. The p value is .0009. Because this value is below .05, the researcher would reject the null hypothesis and conclude that the mean calorie estimates for the three groups are not the same in the population. Notice that the ANOVA table also includes the “sum of squares” ( SS ) for between groups and for within groups. These values are computed on the way to finding MS B and MS W but are not typically reported by the researcher. Finally, if the researcher were to compute the F ratio by hand, he could look at Table 13.3 and see that the critical value of F with 2 and 21 degrees of freedom is 3.467 (the same value in Table 13.4 under F crit ). The fact that his F score was more extreme than this critical value would tell him that his p value is less than .05 and that he should reject the null hypothesis.

Between groups | 11,943.75 | 2 | 5,971.875 | 9.916234 | 0.000928 | 3.4668 |

Within groups | 12,646.88 | 21 | 602.2321 | |||

Total | 24,590.63 | 23 |

## ANOVA Elaborations

Post hoc comparisons.

When we reject the null hypothesis in a one-way ANOVA, we conclude that the group means are not all the same in the population. But this can indicate different things. With three groups, it can indicate that all three means are significantly different from each other. Or it can indicate that one of the means is significantly different from the other two, but the other two are not significantly different from each other. It could be, for example, that the mean calorie estimates of psychology majors, nutrition majors, and dieticians are all significantly different from each other. Or it could be that the mean for dieticians is significantly different from the means for psychology and nutrition majors, but the means for psychology and nutrition majors are not significantly different from each other. For this reason, statistically significant one-way ANOVA results are typically followed up with a series of post hoc comparisons of selected pairs of group means to determine which are different from which others.

One approach to post hoc comparisons would be to conduct a series of independent-samples t tests comparing each group mean to each of the other group means. But there is a problem with this approach. In general, if we conduct a t test when the null hypothesis is true, we have a 5% chance of mistakenly rejecting the null hypothesis (see Section 13.3 “Additional Considerations” for more on such Type I errors). If we conduct several t tests when the null hypothesis is true, the chance of mistakenly rejecting at least one null hypothesis increases with each test we conduct. Thus researchers do not usually make post hoc comparisons using standard t tests because there is too great a chance that they will mistakenly reject at least one null hypothesis. Instead, they use one of several modified t test procedures—among them the Bonferonni procedure, Fisher’s least significant difference (LSD) test, and Tukey’s honestly significant difference (HSD) test. The details of these approaches are beyond the scope of this book, but it is important to understand their purpose. It is to keep the risk of mistakenly rejecting a true null hypothesis to an acceptable level (close to 5%).

## Repeated-Measures ANOVA

Recall that the one-way ANOVA is appropriate for between-subjects designs in which the means being compared come from separate groups of participants. It is not appropriate for within-subjects designs in which the means being compared come from the same participants tested under different conditions or at different times. This requires a slightly different approach, called the repeated-measures ANOVA . The basics of the repeated-measures ANOVA are the same as for the one-way ANOVA. The main difference is that measuring the dependent variable multiple times for each participant allows for a more refined measure of MS W . Imagine, for example, that the dependent variable in a study is a measure of reaction time. Some participants will be faster or slower than others because of stable individual differences in their nervous systems, muscles, and other factors. In a between-subjects design, these stable individual differences would simply add to the variability within the groups and increase the value of MS W . In a within-subjects design, however, these stable individual differences can be measured and subtracted from the value of MS W . This lower value of MS W means a higher value of F and a more sensitive test.

## Factorial ANOVA

When more than one independent variable is included in a factorial design, the appropriate approach is the factorial ANOVA . Again, the basics of the factorial ANOVA are the same as for the one-way and repeated-measures ANOVAs. The main difference is that it produces an F ratio and p value for each main effect and for each interaction. Returning to our calorie estimation example, imagine that the health psychologist tests the effect of participant major (psychology vs. nutrition) and food type (cookie vs. hamburger) in a factorial design. A factorial ANOVA would produce separate F ratios and p values for the main effect of major, the main effect of food type, and the interaction between major and food. Appropriate modifications must be made depending on whether the design is between subjects, within subjects, or mixed.

## Testing Pearson’s r

For relationships between quantitative variables, where Pearson’s r is used to describe the strength of those relationships, the appropriate null hypothesis test is a test of Pearson’s r . The basic logic is exactly the same as for other null hypothesis tests. In this case, the null hypothesis is that there is no relationship in the population. We can use the Greek lowercase rho (ρ) to represent the relevant parameter: ρ = 0. The alternative hypothesis is that there is a relationship in the population: ρ ≠ 0. As with the t test, this test can be two-tailed if the researcher has no expectation about the direction of the relationship or one-tailed if the researcher expects the relationship to go in a particular direction.

It is possible to use Pearson’s r for the sample to compute a t score with N − 2 degrees of freedom and then to proceed as for a t test. However, because of the way it is computed, Pearson’s r can also be treated as its own test statistic. The online statistical tools and statistical software such as Excel and SPSS generally compute Pearson’s r and provide the p value associated with that value of Pearson’s r . As always, if the p value is less than .05, we reject the null hypothesis and conclude that there is a relationship between the variables in the population. If the p value is greater than .05, we retain the null hypothesis and conclude that there is not enough evidence to say there is a relationship in the population. If we compute Pearson’s r by hand, we can use a table like Table 13.5, which shows the critical values of r for various samples sizes when α is .05. A sample value of Pearson’s r that is more extreme than the critical value is statistically significant.

Critical value of one-tailed | Critical value of two-tailed | |
---|---|---|

5 | .805 | .878 |

10 | .549 | .632 |

15 | .441 | .514 |

20 | .378 | .444 |

25 | .337 | .396 |

30 | .306 | .361 |

35 | .283 | .334 |

40 | .264 | .312 |

45 | .248 | .294 |

50 | .235 | .279 |

55 | .224 | .266 |

60 | .214 | .254 |

65 | .206 | .244 |

70 | .198 | .235 |

75 | .191 | .227 |

80 | .185 | .220 |

85 | .180 | .213 |

90 | .174 | .207 |

95 | .170 | .202 |

100 | .165 | .197 |

## Example Test of Pearson’s r

Imagine that the health psychologist is interested in the correlation between people’s calorie estimates and their weight. He has no expectation about the direction of the relationship, so he decides to conduct a two-tailed test. He computes the correlation for a sample of 22 university students and finds that Pearson’s r is −.21. The statistical software he uses tells him that the p value is .348. It is greater than .05, so he retains the null hypothesis and concludes that there is no relationship between people’s calorie estimates and their weight. If he were to compute Pearson’s r by hand, he could look at Table 13.5 and see that the critical value for 22 − 2 = 20 degrees of freedom is .444. The fact that Pearson’s r for the sample is less extreme than this critical value tells him that the p value is greater than .05 and that he should retain the null hypothesis.

Key Takeaways

- To compare two means, the most common null hypothesis test is the t test. The one-sample t test is used for comparing one sample mean with a hypothetical population mean of interest, the dependent-samples t test is used to compare two means in a within-subjects design, and the independent-samples t test is used to compare two means in a between-subjects design.
- To compare more than two means, the most common null hypothesis test is the analysis of variance (ANOVA). The one-way ANOVA is used for between-subjects designs with one independent variable, the repeated-measures ANOVA is used for within-subjects designs, and the factorial ANOVA is used for factorial designs.
- A null hypothesis test of Pearson’s r is used to compare a sample value of Pearson’s r with a hypothetical population value of 0.
- Practice: Use one of the online tools, Excel, or SPSS to reproduce the one-sample t test, dependent-samples t test, independent-samples t test, and one-way ANOVA for the four sets of calorie estimation data presented in this section.
- Practice: A sample of 25 university students rated their friendliness on a scale of 1 ( Much Lower Than Average ) to 7 ( Much Higher Than Average ). Their mean rating was 5.30 with a standard deviation of 1.50. Conduct a one-sample t test comparing their mean rating with a hypothetical mean rating of 4 ( Average ). The question is whether university students have a tendency to rate themselves as friendlier than average.
- The correlation between height and IQ is +.13 in a sample of 35.
- For a sample of 88 university students, the correlation between how disgusted they felt and the harshness of their moral judgments was +.23.
- The correlation between the number of daily hassles and positive mood is −.43 for a sample of 30 middle-aged adults.

A common null hypothesis test examining the difference between two means.

Compares a sample mean with a hypothetical population mean that provides some interesting standard of comparison.

A statistic that is computed only to help find the p value.

Points on the test distribution that are compared to the test statistic to determine whether to reject the null hypothesis.

The null hypothesis is rejected if the t score for the sample is extreme in either direction.

Where the null hypothesis is rejected only if the t score for the sample is extreme in one direction that we specify before collecting the data.

Statistical test used to compare two means for the same sample tested at two different times or under two different conditions.

Variable formed by subtracting one variable from another.

Statistical test used to compare the means of two separate samples.

Most common null hypothesis test when there are more than two groups or condition means to be compared.

A null hypothesis test that is used for between-between subjects designs with a single independent variable.

An estimate of population variance based on the differences among the sample means.

An estimate of population variance based on the differences among the scores within each group.

Analysis of selected pairs of group means to determine which are different from which others.

The dependent variable is measured multiple times for each participant, allowing a more refined measure of MSW.

A null hypothesis test that is used when more than one independent variable is included in a factorial design.

Research Methods in Psychology - 2nd Canadian Edition Copyright © 2015 by Paul C. Price, Rajiv Jhangiani, & I-Chant A. Chiang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Before carrying out their research, most psychologists will make a prediction about what will happen. This is known as a hypothesis, which is a statement regarding what the psychologist believes will or should happen at the end of the study. For example, a psychologist may predict that children who listen to music whilst revising will do better in their exams than those children who do not.

There are two types of hypotheses, which are null hypotheses and alternative hypotheses, both of which we will look at now in more detail.

## What is a null hypothesis?

A null hypothesis predicts that there will be no pattern or trend in results. In other words, it predicts no difference and no correlation . (A correlation is a relationship between two or more things.)

Before starting their research, psychologists usually have both a null and an alternative hypothesis and their aim is to find out which one is correct. Once they have identified which one is correct they will reject the other, as this one will not be supported by their research findings.

## What is an alternative hypothesis?

Unlike a null hypothesis, an alternative hypothesis predicts that there will be a difference or a correlation between two or more things. In other words, an alternative hypothesis predicts some kind of pattern or trend in results. Have a look at the following alternative hypotheses, which are based around the core studies within this course:

- Participants will be able to accurately recall more information at the start and end of a list than in the middle
- Children whose efforts are praised are more likely to grow up with a growth mindset than those who are praised personally
- Children are more likely to behave aggressively when they witnessed an aggressive adult role model
- Children under the age of eight are more likely to be egocentric than those who are over the age of eight.

It will help you in the exam, if you are asked to write some form of hypothesis, if you begin a null hypothesis with “there will be no…” and an alternative hypothesis with “there will be a…”. There are usually two marks available for writing a hypothesis correctly. One mark will be for knowing whether it is predicting a different or a correlation or not and the other mark will be for stating the rest of the hypothesis, i.e. the variables, which must be done in a clear and accurate way.

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## Null hypothesis definition

The null hypothesis is a general statement that states that there is no relationship between two phenomenons under consideration or that there is no association between two groups.

- A hypothesis, in general, is an assumption that is yet to be proved with sufficient pieces of evidence. A null hypothesis thus is the hypothesis a researcher is trying to disprove.
- A null hypothesis is a hypothesis capable of being objectively verified, tested, and even rejected.
- If a study is to compare method A with method B about their relationship, and if the study is preceded on the assumption that both methods are equally good, then this assumption is termed as the null hypothesis.
- The null hypothesis should always be a specific hypothesis, i.e., it should not state about or approximately a certain value.

## Null hypothesis symbol

- The symbol for the null hypothesis is H 0, and it is read as H-null, H-zero, or H-naught.
- The null hypothesis is usually associated with just ‘equals to’ sign as a null hypothesis can either be accepted or rejected.

## Null hypothesis purpose

- The main purpose of a null hypothesis is to verify/ disprove the proposed statistical assumptions.
- Some scientific null hypothesis help to advance a theory.
- The null hypothesis is also used to verify the consistent results of multiple experiments. For e.g., the null hypothesis stating that there is no relation between some medication and age of the patients supports the general effectiveness conclusion, and allows recommendations.

## Null hypothesis principle

- The principle of the null hypothesis is collecting the data and determining the chances of the collected data in the study of a random sample, proving that the null hypothesis is true.
- In situations or studies where the collected data doesn’t complete the expectation of the null hypothesis, it is concluded that the data doesn’t provide sufficient or reliable pieces of evidence to support the null hypothesis and thus, it is rejected.
- The data collected is tested through some statistical tool which is designed to measure the extent of departure of the date from the null hypothesis.
- The procedure decides whether the observed departure obtained from the statistical tool is larger than a defined value so that the probability of occurrence of a high departure value is very small under the null hypothesis.
- However, some data might not contradict the null hypothesis which explains that only a weak conclusion can be made and that the data doesn’t provide strong pieces of evidence against the null hypothesis and the null hypothesis might or might not be true.
- Under some other conditions, if the data collected is sufficient and is capable of providing enough evidence, the null hypothesis can be considered valid, indicating no relationship between the phenomena.

## When to reject null hypothesis?

- When the p-value of the data is less than the significant level of the test, the null hypothesis is rejected, indicating the test results are significant.
- However, if the p-value is higher than the significant value, the null hypothesis is not rejected, and the results are considered not significant.
- The level of significance is an important concept while hypothesis testing as it determines the percentage risk of rejecting the null hypothesis when H 0 might happen to be true.
- In other words, if we take the level of significance at 5%, it means that the researcher is willing to take as much as a 5 percent risk of rejecting the null hypothesis when it (H 0 ) happens to be true.
- The null hypothesis cannot be accepted because the lack of evidence only means that the relationship is not proven. It doesn’t prove that something doesn’t exist, but it just means that there are not enough shreds of evidence and the study might have missed it.

## Null hypothesis examples

The following are some examples of null hypothesis:

- If the hypothesis is that “the consumption of a particular medicine reduces the chances of heart arrest”, the null hypothesis will be “the consumption of the medicine doesn’t reduce the chances of heart arrest.”
- If the hypothesis is that, “If random test scores are collected from men and women, does the score of one group differ from the other?” a possible null hypothesis will be that the mean test score of men is the same as that of the women.

H 0 : µ 1 = µ 2

H 0 = null hypothesis µ 1 = mean score of men µ 2 = mean score of women

## Alternative hypothesis definition

An alternative hypothesis is a statement that describes that there is a relationship between two selected variables in a study.

- An alternative hypothesis is usually used to state that a new theory is preferable to the old one (null hypothesis).
- This hypothesis can be simply termed as an alternative to the null hypothesis.
- The alternative hypothesis is the hypothesis that is to be proved that indicates that the results of a study are significant and that the sample observation is not results just from chance but from some non-random cause.
- If a study is to compare method A with method B about their relationship and we assume that the method A is superior or the method B is inferior, then such a statement is termed as an alternative hypothesis.
- Alternative hypotheses should be clearly stated, considering the nature of the research problem.

## Alternative hypothesis symbol

- The symbol of the alternative hypothesis is either H 1 or H a while using less than, greater than or not equal signs.

## Alternative hypothesis purpose

- An alternative hypothesis provides the researchers with some specific restatements and clarifications of the research problem.
- An alternative hypothesis provides a direction to the study, which then can be utilized by the researcher to obtain the desired results.
- Since the alternative hypothesis is selected before conducting the study, it allows the test to prove that the study is supported by evidence, separating it from the researchers’ desires and values.
- An alternative hypothesis provides a chance of discovering new theories that can disprove an existing one that might not be supported by evidence.
- The alternative hypothesis is important as they prove that a relationship exists between two variables selected and that the results of the study conducted are relevant and significant.

## Alternative hypothesis principle

- The principle behind the alternative hypothesis is similar to that of the null hypothesis.
- The alternative hypothesis is based on the concept that when sufficient evidence is collected from the data of random sample, it provides a basis for proving the assumption made by the researcher regarding the study.
- Like in the null hypothesis, the data collected from a random sample is passed through a statistical tool that measures the extent of departure of the data from the null hypothesis.
- If the departure is small under the selected level of significance, the alternative hypothesis is accepted, and the null hypothesis is rejected.
- If the data collected don’t have chances of being in the study of the random sample and are instead decided by the relationship within the sample of the study, an alternative hypothesis stands true.

## Alternative hypothesis examples

The following are some examples of alternative hypothesis:

1. If a researcher is assuming that the bearing capacity of a bridge is more than 10 tons, then the hypothesis under this study will be:

Null hypothesis H 0 : µ= 10 tons Alternative hypothesis H a : µ>10 tons

2. Under another study that is trying to test whether there is a significant difference between the effectiveness of medicine against heart arrest, the alternative hypothesis will be that there is a relationship between the medicine and chances of heart arrest.

## Null hypothesis vs Alternative hypothesis

The null hypothesis is a general statement that states that there is no relationship between two phenomenons under consideration or that there is no association between two groups. | An alternative hypothesis is a statement that describes that there is a relationship between two selected variables in a study. | |

It is denoted by H . | It is denoted by H or H . | |

It is followed by ‘equals to’ sign. | It is followed by not equals to, ‘less than’ or ‘greater than’ sign. | |

The null hypothesis believes that the results are observed as a result of chance. | The alternative hypothesis believes that the results are observed as a result of some real causes. | |

It is the hypothesis that the researcher tries to disprove. | It is a hypothesis that the researcher tries to prove. | |

The result of the null hypothesis indicates no changes in opinions or actions. | The result of an alternative hypothesis causes changes in opinions and actions. | |

If the null hypothesis is accepted, the results of the study become insignificant. | If an alternative hypothesis is accepted, the results of the study become significant. | |

If the p-value is greater than the level of significance, the null hypothesis is accepted. | If the p-value is smaller than the level of significance, an alternative hypothesis is accepted. | |

The null hypothesis allows the acceptance of correct existing theories and the consistency of multiple experiments. | Alternative hypothesis are important as it establishes a relationship between two variables, resulting in new improved theories. |

- R. Kothari (1990) Research Methodology. Vishwa Prakasan. India.
- https://www.statisticssolutions.com/null-hypothesis-and-alternative-hypothesis/
- https://byjus.com/maths/null-hypothesis/
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_hypothesis
- https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-null-and-alternative-hypothesis.html
- 5% – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_hypothesis
- 3% – https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-null-and-alternative-hypothesis.html
- 2% – https://byjus.com/maths/null-hypothesis/
- 1% – https://www.wisdomjobs.com/e-university/research-methodology-tutorial-355/procedure-for-hypothesis-testing-11525.html
- 1% – https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-null-hypothesis-and-examples-605436
- 1% – https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-different-types-of-hypothesis-and-what-are-some-examples-of-them
- 1% – https://www.dummies.com/education/math/statistics/what-a-p-value-tells-you-about-statistical-data/
- 1% – https://www.coursehero.com/file/p7jfbal5/These-are-hypotheses-capable-of-being-objectively-verified-and-tested-Thus-we/
- 1% – https://support.minitab.com/en-us/minitab/18/help-and-how-to/modeling-statistics/anova/how-to/one-way-anova/interpret-the-results/all-statistics-and-graphs/methods/
- 1% – https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/105319/test-whether-there-is-a-significant-difference-between-two-groups
- 1% – https://statisticsbyjim.com/hypothesis-testing/failing-reject-null-hypothesis/
- 1% – https://quizlet.com/45299306/statistics-flash-cards/
- <1% – https://www.thoughtco.com/significance-level-in-hypothesis-testing-1147177
- <1% – https://www.thoughtco.com/null-hypothesis-vs-alternative-hypothesis-3126413
- <1% – https://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/40007_Chapter8.pdf
- <1% – https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-hypothesis-and-vs-assumption/
- <1% – https://www.coursehero.com/file/18076181/introduction-to-hypothesis/
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- <1% – https://online.stat.psu.edu/statprogram/reviews/statistical-concepts/hypothesis-testing/p-value-approach

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- Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

## Difference Between Null and Alternative Hypothesis

Null hypothesis implies a statement that expects no difference or effect. On the contrary, an alternative hypothesis is one that expects some difference or effect. Null hypothesis This article excerpt shed light on the fundamental differences between null and alternative hypothesis.

## Content: Null Hypothesis Vs Alternative Hypothesis

Comparison chart.

Basis for Comparison | Null Hypothesis | Alternative Hypothesis |
---|---|---|

Meaning | A null hypothesis is a statement, in which there is no relationship between two variables. | An alternative hypothesis is statement in which there is some statistical significance between two measured phenomenon. |

Represents | No observed effect | Some observed effect |

What is it? | It is what the researcher tries to disprove. | It is what the researcher tries to prove. |

Acceptance | No changes in opinions or actions | Changes in opinions or actions |

Testing | Indirect and implicit | Direct and explicit |

Observations | Result of chance | Result of real effect |

Denoted by | H-zero | H-one |

Mathematical formulation | Equal sign | Unequal sign |

## Definition of Null Hypothesis

A null hypothesis is a statistical hypothesis in which there is no significant difference exist between the set of variables. It is the original or default statement, with no effect, often represented by H 0 (H-zero). It is always the hypothesis that is tested. It denotes the certain value of population parameter such as µ, s, p. A null hypothesis can be rejected, but it cannot be accepted just on the basis of a single test.

## Definition of Alternative Hypothesis

A statistical hypothesis used in hypothesis testing, which states that there is a significant difference between the set of variables. It is often referred to as the hypothesis other than the null hypothesis, often denoted by H 1 (H-one). It is what the researcher seeks to prove in an indirect way, by using the test. It refers to a certain value of sample statistic, e.g., x¯, s, p

The acceptance of alternative hypothesis depends on the rejection of the null hypothesis i.e. until and unless null hypothesis is rejected, an alternative hypothesis cannot be accepted.

## Key Differences Between Null and Alternative Hypothesis

The important points of differences between null and alternative hypothesis are explained as under:

- A null hypothesis is a statement, in which there is no relationship between two variables. An alternative hypothesis is a statement; that is simply the inverse of the null hypothesis, i.e. there is some statistical significance between two measured phenomenon.
- A null hypothesis is what, the researcher tries to disprove whereas an alternative hypothesis is what the researcher wants to prove.
- A null hypothesis represents, no observed effect whereas an alternative hypothesis reflects, some observed effect.
- If the null hypothesis is accepted, no changes will be made in the opinions or actions. Conversely, if the alternative hypothesis is accepted, it will result in the changes in the opinions or actions.
- As null hypothesis refers to population parameter, the testing is indirect and implicit. On the other hand, the alternative hypothesis indicates sample statistic, wherein, the testing is direct and explicit.
- A null hypothesis is labelled as H 0 (H-zero) while an alternative hypothesis is represented by H 1 (H-one).
- The mathematical formulation of a null hypothesis is an equal sign but for an alternative hypothesis is not equal to sign.
- In null hypothesis, the observations are the outcome of chance whereas, in the case of the alternative hypothesis, the observations are an outcome of real effect.

There are two outcomes of a statistical test, i.e. first, a null hypothesis is rejected and alternative hypothesis is accepted, second, null hypothesis is accepted, on the basis of the evidence. In simple terms, a null hypothesis is just opposite of alternative hypothesis.

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Zipporah Thuo says

February 22, 2018 at 6:06 pm

The comparisons between the two hypothesis i.e Null hypothesis and the Alternative hypothesis are the best.Thank you.

Getu Gamo says

March 4, 2019 at 3:42 am

Thank you so much for the detail explanation on two hypotheses. Now I understood both very well, including their differences.

Jyoti Bhardwaj says

May 28, 2019 at 6:26 am

Thanks, Surbhi! Appreciate the clarity and precision of this content.

January 9, 2020 at 6:16 am

John Jenstad says

July 20, 2020 at 2:52 am

Thanks very much, Surbhi, for your clear explanation!!

Navita says

July 2, 2021 at 11:48 am

Thanks for the Comparison chart! it clears much of my doubt.

GURU UPPALA says

July 21, 2022 at 8:36 pm

Thanks for the Comparison chart!

Enock kipkoech says

September 22, 2022 at 1:57 pm

What are the examples of null hypothesis and substantive hypothesis

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## COMMENTS

The null hypothesis (H 0) answers "No, there's no effect in the population." The alternative hypothesis (H a) answers "Yes, there is an effect in the population." The null and alternative are always claims about the population. That's because the goal of hypothesis testing is to make inferences about a population based on a sample.

Examples. A research hypothesis, in its plural form "hypotheses," is a specific, testable prediction about the anticipated results of a study, established at its outset. It is a key component of the scientific method. Hypotheses connect theory to data and guide the research process towards expanding scientific understanding.

Alternative Hypothesis: Eating an apple daily reduces the chances of visiting the doctor. Null Hypothesis: Eating an apple daily does not impact the frequency of visiting the doctor. Example 2. Research Problem: What is the impact of spending a lot of time on mobiles on the attention span of teenagers.

A tutorial on a practical Bayesian alternative to null-hypothesis significance testing. Behavior research methods, 43, 679-690. Nickerson, R. S. (2000). Null hypothesis significance testing: a review of an old and continuing controversy. Psychological methods, 5(2), 241. Rozeboom, W. W. (1960). The fallacy of the null-hypothesis significance test.

The null and alternative hypotheses are two competing claims that researchers weigh evidence for and against using a statistical test: Null hypothesis (H0): There's no effect in the population. Alternative hypothesis (HA): There's an effect in the population. The effect is usually the effect of the independent variable on the dependent ...

A hypothesis is a tentative statement about the relationship between two or more variables. It is a specific, testable prediction about what you expect to happen in a study. It is a preliminary answer to your question that helps guide the research process. Consider a study designed to examine the relationship between sleep deprivation and test ...

Here are some examples of the alternative hypothesis: Example 1. A researcher assumes that a bridge's bearing capacity is over 10 tons, the researcher will then develop an hypothesis to support this study. The hypothesis will be: For the null hypothesis H0: µ= 10 tons. For the alternate hypothesis Ha: µ>10 tons.

Therefore, they rejected the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis—concluding that there is a positive correlation between these variables in the population. A crucial step in null hypothesis testing is finding the probability of the sample result or a more extreme result if the null hypothesis were true (Lakens, 2017). [1]

The following set of negations may help when you are forming your null and alternative hypotheses. Null hypothesis: "x is equal to y." Alternative hypothesis "x is not equal to y." Null hypothesis: "x is equal to or greater than y." Alternative hypothesis "x is less than y." Null hypothesis: "x is equal to or less than y ...

The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses.They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis.These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints. H 0, the —null hypothesis: a statement of no difference between sample means or proportions or no difference between a sample mean or proportion and a population mean or proportion. In other words, the difference equals 0.

A crucial step in null hypothesis testing is finding the likelihood of the sample result if the null hypothesis were true. This probability is called the p value. A low p value means that the sample result would be unlikely if the null hypothesis were true and leads to the rejection of the null hypothesis. A p value that is not low means that ...

It is the opposite of your research hypothesis. The alternative hypothesis--that is, the research hypothesis--is the idea, phenomenon, observation that you want to prove. If you suspect that girls take longer to get ready for school than boys, then: Alternative: girls time > boys time. Null: girls time <= boys time.

H 0 (Null Hypothesis): Population parameter =, ≤, ≥ some value. H A (Alternative Hypothesis): Population parameter <, >, ≠ some value. Note that the null hypothesis always contains the equal sign. We interpret the hypotheses as follows: Null hypothesis: The sample data provides no evidence to support some claim being made by an individual.

To distinguish it from other hypotheses, the null hypothesis is written as H 0 (which is read as "H-nought," "H-null," or "H-zero"). A significance test is used to determine the likelihood that the results supporting the null hypothesis are not due to chance. A confidence level of 95% or 99% is common. Keep in mind, even if the confidence level is high, there is still a small chance the ...

The alternative hypothesis (H a H_a H a or H 1 H_1 H 1 ) is the hypothesis being proposed in opposition to the null hypothesis. Examples of Null and Alternative Hypotheses In a hypothesis test, the null and alternative hypotheses must be mutually exclusive statements, meaning both hypotheses cannot be true at the same time.

The most common null hypothesis test for this type of statistical relationship is the t test. In this section, we look at three types of t tests that are used for slightly different research designs: the one-sample t test, the dependent-samples t test, and the independent-samples t test. The one-sample t test is used to compare a sample mean ...

The null hypothesis states that there is no change or difference as a result of the independent variable. In other words, work experience does not result in a difference in grades among college students. The alternative hypothesis states that there is a change or difference. When we perform statistics, we are always testing for the null and ...

The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses.They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis.These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints. \(H_0\): The null hypothesis: It is a statement of no difference between the variables—they are not related. This can often be considered the status quo and as a result if you cannot accept the null it requires some action.

Null Hypothesis. The null hypothesis is a predictive statement that describes the statistical relationship between two or more variables or study groups. A variable refers to any trait or response ...

Alternative hypothesis " x is not equal to y .". Null hypothesis: " x is at least y .". Alternative hypothesis " x is less than y .". Null hypothesis: " x is at most y .". Alternative hypothesis " x is greater than y .". Here are the differences between the null and alternative hypotheses and how to distinguish between them.

A null hypothesis predicts that there will be no pattern or trend in results. In other words, it predicts no difference and no correlation. (A correlation is a relationship between two or more things.) Before starting their research, psychologists usually have both a null and an alternative hypothesis and their aim is to find out which one is ...

The null hypothesis is a general statement that states that there is no relationship between two phenomenons under consideration or that there is no association between two groups. An alternative hypothesis is a statement that describes that there is a relationship between two selected variables in a study. Symbol. It is denoted by H 0.

A null hypothesis is what, the researcher tries to disprove whereas an alternative hypothesis is what the researcher wants to prove. A null hypothesis represents, no observed effect whereas an alternative hypothesis reflects, some observed effect. If the null hypothesis is accepted, no changes will be made in the opinions or actions.