So how was March break? My family and I went to Stowe, Vermont for a little skiing. Awesome. However, the 8 hour drive with 3 kids, our luggage, skis, snowboards, and snacks to get there… maybe not so much. We felt a little like Dorothy in the The Wizard of Oz.
Last time we were talking about p-values and inferential statistics (see Naked p-value if you don’t remember) and I mentioned that I would talk a little more about hypothesis testing. Now Ronald Fisher believed that if you obtained a large p-value when performing a statistical test then you would reject the null hypothesis. So the null hypothesis is always assumed to be true until shown to be false with a statistical test. This helps you determine the probability of seeing an effect as big or bigger than that in your study by chance alone if the null hypothesis were true. This is called significance testing.
Here is an interesting thought: in many (most?) situations the statistical test you perform for the your study is to test the null hypothesis that no difference in effect exists between groups. In our previous example we were interested in whether gals or guys are associated with whether they like the Naked Gun movies or not in the population of blog readers. If no difference truly existed between gals and guys then why perform the study? The null hypothesis that both gals and guys equally like the Naked gun movies is a “straw man” meant to be knocked down by the results of your study. Therefore, you should always maximize the power of your study in order to knock down the straw man and show a difference exists between gals and guys.
I’ll see you next time in the blogosphere.