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Stats Science

Why P-values Cannot Tell You If a Hypothesis Is Correct 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-a-doctor-not-an-oracle dept.
ananyo writes "P values, the 'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume. Critically, they cannot tell you the odds that a hypothesis is correct. A feature in Nature looks at why, if a result looks too good to be true, it probably is, despite an impressive-seeming P value."
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Why P-values Cannot Tell You If a Hypothesis Is Correct

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  • And this is why (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @05:55PM (#46232771) Homepage Journal

    it takes more then 1 study.
    There is a push to have studies include Bayesian Probability.

    IMHO all papers should be read be statisticians just to be sure the calculation are correct.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @05:57PM (#46232789)

    There is no shortage of misleading statistics out there. It can be a discipline fraught with peril for the uninformed, and there are lots of statistics packages out there that reduce advanced tests to a "point and shoot" level of difficulty that produces results that may not mean what the user thinks they mean. I've read some articles showing no lack of problems in the social sciences, but the problem is bigger than that.

    I can't help wondering how much that plays into the oscillating recommendations that you see for various foods. Both coffee and eggs have gone through repeated cycles of, "it's bad," "no, it's good," "no, it's bad," "no, it's good." I understand that at least some of it is coming down to the aspect they choose to measure, but I can't help but wonder now much bad statistics is playing into it.

  • P-hacking. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:15PM (#46232981)

    From TFA:

    Perhaps the worst fallacy is the kind of self-deception for which psychologist Uri Simonsohn of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues have popularized the term P-hacking; it is also known as data-dredging, snooping, fishing, significance-chasing and double-dipping. "P-hacking," says Simonsohn, "is trying multiple things until you get the desired result" - even unconsciously.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:25PM (#46233041) Homepage Journal

    Not a lot.

    Eggs is a good example.
    They where 'bad' becasue they had high cholesterol.
    Science move on, and it turns out there are different kind of cholesterol, some 'good' some 'bad' so now eggs aren't as unhealthy as was thought.

    Same with many things.

    The media s the issue. It's can report science worth a damn.

  • by DVega (211997) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:30PM (#46233093)
    There is a classic article by Jacob Cohen [uci.edu] on this subject.

    Also there is a simpler analysis of the above article [reid.name]

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:43PM (#46233231)

    Eggs is a good example.
    They where 'bad' becasue they had high cholesterol.
    Science move on, and it turns out there are different kind of cholesterol, some 'good' some 'bad' so now eggs aren't as unhealthy as was thought.

    Fats, too. It was deemed that fats were bad for you, so instead of butter, use margarine. Better yet, skip the fats period. Bad for you.

    Of course, it was also discovered that hydrogenation had a nasty habit of turning unsaturated fats into different chiral forms - "cis" and "trans". And guess what? The "trans" form of the fat is really, really, really bad for you (yes, that's the same "trans" in trans fats). Suddenly butter wasn't such an unreasonable option anymore as margarine as margarine had to undergo hydrogenation.

    Not to mention the effort to go "low fat" has had nasty side effects of its own - the overuse of sugar and salt to replace the taste that fats had, resulting in even worse health problems (obesity, heart disease) than just having the fat to begin with.

    (And no, banning trans fats doesn't mean they ban "yummy stuff" - there's plenty of fats you can cook with to still get the "yummy" without all the trans fats.)

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