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[Phys-l] The Cult of Statistical Significance

Some subscribers to Phys-L and Physoc might be interested in a recent post "The Cult of Statistical Significance" [Hake (2010)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: Math-Teach's Domenico Rosa has called attention to the review of Ziliak & McCloskey (2008) by Olle Häggström (2010). According to Häggström, Ziliak & McCloskey's major point is that "many researchers are so obsessed with statistical significance that they neglect to ask themselves whether the detected discrepancies are large enough to be of any subject-matter significance."

Consistent with that outlook, in "Lessons from the Physics Education Reform Effort" [Hake (2002)] I cited the position of many psychologists and biologists that the "effect size" is a preferred alternative (or at least addition) to the usually inappropriate t-tests and p values associated with Null Hypothesis Statistical Significance Testing (NHSST).

Nevertheless, many educational researchers (even some physicists) still utilize *only* NHSST to gauge the significance of their research results.

To access the complete 14 kB post please click on <>.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands
President, PEdants for Definitive Academic References which Recognize the
Invention of the Internet (PEDARRII)

"After 4 decades of severe criticism, the ritual of null hypothesis significance testing - mechanical dichotomous decisions around a sacred 0.05 criterion - still persists. This article reviews the problems with this practice, including its near-universal misinterpretation of p as the probability that Ho . . . .[[the null hypothesis]]. . . . is false, the misinterpretation that its complement is the probability of successful replication, and the mistaken assumption that if one rejects Ho one thereby affirms the theory that led to the test. Exploratory data analysis and the use of graphic methods, a steady improvement in and a movement toward standardization in measurement, and emphasis on effect sizes using confidence intervals, ands the informed use of available statistical methods is suggested. FOR GENERALIZATION, PSYCHOLOGISTS MUST FINALLY RELY, AS HAS BEEN DONE IN THE OLDER SCIENCES, ON REPLICATION." [My CAPS.]
-Jacob Cohen (1994) in "The earth is round (p < .05)"

REFERENCES [All URL's accessed on 10 October 2010; some URL's shortened by <>.]

Cohen, J. 1994. "The earth is round (p < .05)." American Psychologist 49: 997-1003; online as a 1.2 MB pdf at <>, thanks to Christopher Green <>.

Hake, R.R. 2010. "The Cult of Statistical Significance," online on the OPEN AERA-L archives at <>. Post of 10 Oct 2010 19:34:16-0700 to AERA-L, Math-Teach, & Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to various discussion lists and are also online on my blog "Hake'sEdStuff" at <> with a provision for comments.