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Null Hypothesis (H0)

In many cases the purpose of research is to answer a question or test a prediction,

generally stated in the form of hypotheses (-is, singular form) -- testable propositions.


Does a training program in driver

safety result in a decline in accident

People who take a driver safety course will have a

lower accident rate than those who do not take the

Who is better in math, men or


Men are better at math than women.

What is the relationship between age Cell phone use is higher for younger adults than for
and cell phone use?
older adults.
Is there a relationship between
education and income?

Income increases with years of education.

Can public education reduce the

occurrence of AIDS?

The number of AIDS cases is inversely related to the

amount of public education about the disease.

The statistical procedure for testing a hypothesis requires some understanding of the null
hypothesis. Think of the outcome (dependent variable). From a statistical (and
sampling) perspective), the null hypothesis asserts that the samples being compared or
contrasted are drawn from the same population with regard to the outcome variable. This
means that

any observed differences in the dependent variable (outcome) must be due to

sampling error (chance)

the independent (predictor) variable does NOT make a difference

The symbol H0 is the abbreviation for the null hypothesis, the small zero stands for null.
Oddly enough, we are in a sense betting against our research judgment. If we didn't think
that some factor made a difference, we probably would not be doing the research in the first
place. But statistically speaking, we temporarily adopt the critical stance that our
independent variable does NOT matter.
Generally, when comparing or contrasting groups (samples), the null hypothesis is that
the difference between means (averages) = 0. For categorical data shown on a contingency
table, the null hypothesis is that any differences between the observed frequencies (counts
in categories) and expected frequencies are due to chance.

Research Hypothesis (H1)

The research hypothesis (or hypotheses -- there may be more than one) is our working
hypothesis -- our prediction, or what we expect to happen. It is also called the alternative
hypothesis - because it is an alternative to the null hypothesis. Technically, the claim of the
research hypothesis is that with respect to the outcome variable, our samples are
from different populations (remember thatpopulation refers to the group from which the sample
is drawn). If we predict that math tutoring results in better performance, than we are predicting that
after the treatment (tutoring), the treated sample truly is different from the untreated one (and
therefore, from a different population).
The research or alternative hypothesis is abbreviated as H1, and if there are more
hypotheses, H2, H3, H4, etc.

Why the Null Hypothesis (H0)?

When we pose a research question, we want to know whether the outcome is due to the
treatment (independent variable) or due to chance (in which case our treatment is probably
not effective). For example, the claim that tutoring improves math performance generally
does not predict exactly how much improvement. Each level of improvement has a different
probability associated with it, and it would take a long time and a great deal of effort to
specify the probability of each of the possible outcomes that would support our research

On the other hand, the null hypothesis is straightforward -- what is the probability that our
treated and untreated samples are from the same population (that the treatment or
predictor has no effect)? There is only one set of statistical probabilities -- calculation of
chance effects. Instead of directly testing H1, we test H0. If we can reject H0,
(and extraneous factors are under control), we can accept H1. To put it another way, the
fate of the research hypothesis depends upon what happens to H0.

Here are some research or alternative

hypotheses (testable statements)

Exercise leads to weight loss

Exposure to classical music

increases IQ score

Extroverts are healthier than


The inferential statistics do not directly

address the testable statement (research
hypothesis). They address the null
hypothesis. Statistically, we test "not."
Here are the null hypotheses:

Exercise is unrelated to weight loss.

Exposure to classical music has no

effect on IQ score.

Extrovert and introverts are equally

Sensitivity training reduces racial



People exposed to sensitivity training

are no more tolerant than those not
exposed to sensitivity training.

NOTE: The null hypothesis is NOT the opposite of the research hypothesis. The null
hypothesis states that any effects observed after treatment (or associated with a predictor
variable) are due to chance alone. Statistically, the question that is being answered is "If
these samples came from the same population with regard to the outcome, how likely is the
obtained result?"
Self-test #1
Next section: Introduction to Inferential statistics (testing hypotheses)