Location of Repository

On the Nature and Role of Hypothesis Tests.

By A. McLean


Hypothesis testing is widely regarded as an essential part of statistics, but it s use in research has led to considerable controversy in a number of disciplines, especially psychology, with a number of commentators suggesting it should not be used at all. A root cause of this controversy was the overenthusiastic adoption of hypothesis testing, based on a greatly exaggerated view of its role in research. A second cause was confusion between the two forms of hypothesis testing developed by Fisher on the one hand and Neyman and Pearson on the other. This paper discusses these two causes, and also proposes that there is a more general misunderstanding of the role of hypothesis testing. This misunderstanding is reflected in vocabulary such as 'the true value' of the parameter.Hypothesis test; Significance; p value; Probability Model; Statistical model; Prediction

OAI identifier:

Suggested articles



  1. (2001). Bill Thompson's reference list "against" and "for" the use of null hypothesis testing. Web page: http://www.cnr.colostate.edu/~anderson/null.html. 22
  2. (1999). Hypothesis testing and the Westminster system.
  3. (1986). Misconceptions of statistical significance.
  4. (1990). Model specification: the views of Fisher and Neyman, and later developments.
  5. (1922). On the mathematical foundations of theoretical statistics.
  6. (1987). On the probability of making Type I errors.
  7. (2001). Sifting the evidence – what’s wrong with significance tests?,
  8. (1955). Statistical methods and scientific induction.
  9. (2001). Statistics on the catwalk – the importance of models in training researchers in statistics.
  10. (1999). Task Force on Statistical Inference.
  11. (1935). The design of experiments.
  12. (1993). The Fisher, Neyman-Pearson theories of testing hypotheses: one theory or two?
  13. (1998). The forecasting voice: A unified approach to teaching statistics, In
  14. (2000). The Predictive Approach to Teaching Statistics.
  15. (1983). The psychology of inference and the teaching of probability and statistics: two sides of the same coin? in R.W. Scholz (Ed.) Decision making under certainty: cognitive decision research, social interaction, development and epistemology.
  16. (1998). The role of statistical significance testing in educational research.
  17. (1962). The significance tests controversy. A reader.
  18. (1993). The superego, the ego and the id in statistical reasoning. In
  19. (1997). What if there were no significance tests?

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.