- Corporate Finance
- Mutual Funds
- Investing Essentials
- Fundamental Analysis
- Portfolio Management
- Trading Essentials
- Technical Analysis
- Risk Management
- Company News
- Markets News
- Cryptocurrency News
- Personal Finance News
- Economic News
- Government News
- Wealth Management
- Credit Cards
- Home Ownership
- Retirement Planning
- Best Online Brokers
- Best Savings Accounts
- Best Home Warranties
- Best Credit Cards
- Best Personal Loans
- Best Student Loans
- Best Life Insurance
- Best Auto Insurance
- Practice Management
- Financial Advisor Careers
- Investopedia 100
- Portfolio Construction
- Financial Planning
- Investing for Beginners
- Become a Day Trader
- Trading for Beginners
- All Courses
- Trading Courses
- Investing Courses
- Financial Professional Courses
What Is a Null Hypothesis?
How a null hypothesis works, the alternative hypothesis, examples of a null hypothesis.
- Null Hypothesis and Investments
- Null Hypothesis FAQs
- Financial Ratios
Null Hypothesis: What Is It and How Is It Used in Investing?
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Investopedia / Alex Dos Diaz
A null hypothesis is a type of statistical hypothesis that proposes that no statistical significance exists in a set of given observations. Hypothesis testing is used to assess the credibility of a hypothesis by using sample data. Sometimes referred to simply as the "null," it is represented as H 0 .
The null hypothesis, also known as the conjecture, is used in quantitative analysis to test theories about markets, investing strategies, or economies to decide if an idea is true or false.
- A null hypothesis is a type of conjecture in statistics that proposes that there is no difference between certain characteristics of a population or data-generating process.
- The alternative hypothesis proposes that there is a difference.
- Hypothesis testing provides a method to reject a null hypothesis within a certain confidence level.
- If you can reject the null hypothesis, it provides support for the alternative hypothesis.
- Null hypothesis testing is the basis of the principle of falsification in science.
A null hypothesis is a type of conjecture in statistics that proposes that there is no difference between certain characteristics of a population or data-generating process. For example, a gambler may be interested in whether a game of chance is fair. If it is fair, then the expected earnings per play come to zero for both players. If the game is not fair, then the expected earnings are positive for one player and negative for the other. To test whether the game is fair, the gambler collects earnings data from many repetitions of the game, calculates the average earnings from these data, then tests the null hypothesis that the expected earnings are not different from zero.
If the average earnings from the sample data are sufficiently far from zero, then the gambler will reject the null hypothesis and conclude the alternative hypothesis—namely, that the expected earnings per play are different from zero. If the average earnings from the sample data are near zero, then the gambler will not reject the null hypothesis, concluding instead that the difference between the average from the data and zero is explainable by chance alone.
The null hypothesis assumes that any kind of difference between the chosen characteristics that you see in a set of data is due to chance. For example, if the expected earnings for the gambling game are truly equal to zero, then any difference between the average earnings in the data and zero is due to chance.
Analysts look to reject the null hypothesis because doing so is a strong conclusion. This requires strong evidence in the form of an observed difference that is too large to be explained solely by chance. Failing to reject the null hypothesis—that the results are explainable by chance alone—is a weak conclusion because it allows that factors other than chance may be at work but may not be strong enough for the statistical test to detect them.
A null hypothesis can only be rejected, not proven.
An important point to note is that we are testing the null hypothesis because there is an element of doubt about its validity. Whatever information that is against the stated null hypothesis is captured in the alternative (alternate) hypothesis (H1).
For the above examples, the alternative hypothesis would be:
- Students score an average that is not equal to seven.
- The mean annual return of the mutual fund is not equal to 8% per year.
In other words, the alternative hypothesis is a direct contradiction of the null hypothesis.
Here is a simple example: A school principal claims that students in her school score an average of seven out of 10 in exams. The null hypothesis is that the population mean is 7.0. To test this null hypothesis, we record marks of, say, 30 students (sample) from the entire student population of the school (say 300) and calculate the mean of that sample.
We can then compare the (calculated) sample mean to the (hypothesized) population mean of 7.0 and attempt to reject the null hypothesis. (The null hypothesis here—that the population mean is 7.0—cannot be proved using the sample data. It can only be rejected.)
Take another example: The annual return of a particular mutual fund is claimed to be 8%. Assume that a mutual fund has been in existence for 20 years. The null hypothesis is that the mean return is 8% for the mutual fund. We take a random sample of annual returns of the mutual fund for, say, five years (sample) and calculate the sample mean. We then compare the (calculated) sample mean to the (claimed) population mean (8%) to test the null hypothesis.
For the above examples, null hypotheses are:
- Example A : Students in the school score an average of seven out of 10 in exams.
- Example B: Mean annual return of the mutual fund is 8% per year.
For the purposes of determining whether to reject the null hypothesis, the null hypothesis (abbreviated H 0 ) is assumed, for the sake of argument, to be true. Then the likely range of possible values of the calculated statistic (e.g., the average score on 30 students’ tests) is determined under this presumption (e.g., the range of plausible averages might range from 6.2 to 7.8 if the population mean is 7.0). Then, if the sample average is outside of this range, the null hypothesis is rejected. Otherwise, the difference is said to be “explainable by chance alone,” being within the range that is determined by chance alone.
How Null Hypothesis Testing Is Used in Investments
As an example related to financial markets, assume Alice sees that her investment strategy produces higher average returns than simply buying and holding a stock . The null hypothesis states that there is no difference between the two average returns, and Alice is inclined to believe this until she can conclude contradictory results.
Refuting the null hypothesis would require showing statistical significance, which can be found by a variety of tests. The alternative hypothesis would state that the investment strategy has a higher average return than a traditional buy-and-hold strategy.
One tool that can determine the statistical significance of the results is the p-value. A p-value represents the probability that a difference as large or larger than the observed difference between the two average returns could occur solely by chance.
A p-value that is less than or equal to 0.05 often indicates whether there is evidence against the null hypothesis. If Alice conducts one of these tests, such as a test using the normal model, resulting in a significant difference between her returns and the buy-and-hold returns (the p-value is less than or equal to 0.05), she can then reject the null hypothesis and conclude the alternative hypothesis.
How Is the Null Hypothesis Identified?
The analyst or researcher establishes a null hypothesis based on the research question or problem that they are trying to answer. Depending on the question, the null may be identified differently. For example, if the question is simply whether an effect exists (e.g., does X influence Y?) the null hypothesis could be H 0 : X = 0. If the question is instead, is X the same as Y, the H0 would be X = Y. If it is that the effect of X on Y is positive, H0 would be X > 0. If the resulting analysis shows an effect that is statistically significantly different from zero, the null can be rejected.
How Is Null Hypothesis Used in Finance?
In finance, a null hypothesis is used in quantitative analysis. A null hypothesis tests the premise of an investing strategy, the markets, or an economy to determine if it is true or false. For instance, an analyst may want to see if two stocks, ABC and XYZ, are closely correlated. The null hypothesis would be ABC ≠ XYZ.
How Are Statistical Hypotheses Tested?
Statistical hypotheses are tested by a four-step process . The first step is for the analyst to state the two hypotheses so that only one can be right. The next step is to formulate an analysis plan, which outlines how the data will be evaluated. The third step is to carry out the plan and physically analyze the sample data. The fourth and final step is to analyze the results and either reject the null hypothesis or claim that the observed differences are explainable by chance alone.
What Is an Alternative Hypothesis?
An alternative hypothesis is a direct contradiction of a null hypothesis. This means that if one of the two hypotheses is true, the other is false.
Sage Publishing. " Chapter 8: Introduction to Hypothesis Testing ," Pages 4–7.
Sage Publishing. " Chapter 8: Introduction to Hypothesis Testing ," Page 4.
Sage Publishing. " Chapter 8: Introduction to Hypothesis Testing ," Page 7.
Trading Basic Education
Advanced Technical Analysis Concepts
- Editorial Policy
- Do Not Sell My Personal Information
- Content Licensing
- Accolades Licensing
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Null Hypothesis Examples
ThoughtCo / Hilary Allison
- Scientific Method
- Chemical Laws
- Periodic Table
- Projects & Experiments
- Physical Chemistry
- Medical Chemistry
- Chemistry In Everyday Life
- Famous Chemists
- Activities for Kids
- Abbreviations & Acronyms
- Weather & Climate
- Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
- B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College
The null hypothesis —which assumes that there is no meaningful relationship between two variables—may be the most valuable hypothesis for the scientific method because it is the easiest to test using a statistical analysis. This means you can support your hypothesis with a high level of confidence. Testing the null hypothesis can tell you whether your results are due to the effect of manipulating the dependent variable or due to chance.
What Is the Null Hypothesis?
The null hypothesis states there is no relationship between the measured phenomenon (the dependent variable) and the independent variable . You do not need to believe that the null hypothesis is true to test it. On the contrary, you will likely suspect that there is a relationship between a set of variables. One way to prove that this is the case is to reject the null hypothesis. Rejecting a hypothesis does not mean an experiment was "bad" or that it didn't produce results. In fact, it is often one of the first steps toward further inquiry.
To distinguish it from other hypotheses, the null hypothesis is written as H 0 (which is read as “H-nought,” "H-null," or "H-zero"). A significance test is used to determine the likelihood that the results supporting the null hypothesis are not due to chance. A confidence level of 95 percent or 99 percent is common. Keep in mind, even if the confidence level is high, there is still a small chance the null hypothesis is not true, perhaps because the experimenter did not account for a critical factor or because of chance. This is one reason why it's important to repeat experiments.
Examples of the Null Hypothesis
To write a null hypothesis, first start by asking a question. Rephrase that question in a form that assumes no relationship between the variables. In other words, assume a treatment has no effect. Write your hypothesis in a way that reflects this.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Null hypothesis n., plural: null hypotheses [nʌl haɪˈpɒθɪsɪs] Definition: a hypothesis that is valid or presumed true until invalidated by a statistical test
Table of Contents
Null Hypothesis Definition
Null hypothesis is defined as “the commonly accepted fact (such as the sky is blue) and researcher aim to reject or nullify this fact”.
More formally, we can define a null hypothesis as “a statistical theory suggesting that no statistical relationship exists between given observed variables” .
In biology , the null hypothesis is used to nullify or reject a common belief. The researcher carries out the research which is aimed at rejecting the commonly accepted belief.
What Is a Null Hypothesis?
A hypothesis is defined as a theory or an assumption that is based on inadequate evidence. It needs and requires more experiments and testing for confirmation. There are two possibilities that by doing more experiments and testing, a hypothesis can be false or true. It means it can either prove wrong or true (Blackwelder, 1982).
For example, Susie assumes that mineral water helps in the better growth and nourishment of plants over distilled water. To prove this hypothesis, she performs this experiment for almost a month. She watered some plants with mineral water and some with distilled water.
In a hypothesis when there are no statistically significant relationships among the two variables, the hypothesis is said to be a null hypothesis. The investigator is trying to disprove such a hypothesis. In the above example of plants, the null hypothesis is:
There are no statistical relationships among the forms of water that are given to plants for growth and nourishment.
Usually, an investigator tries to prove the null hypothesis wrong and tries to explain a relation and association between the two variables.
An opposite and reverse of the null hypothesis are known as the alternate hypothesis . In the example of plants the alternate hypothesis is:
There are statistical relationships among the forms of water that are given to plants for growth and nourishment.
The example below shows the difference between null vs alternative hypotheses:
Alternate Hypothesis: The world is round Null Hypothesis: The world is not round.
Copernicus and many other scientists try to prove the null hypothesis wrong and false. By their experiments and testing, they make people believe that alternate hypotheses are correct and true. If they do not prove the null hypothesis experimentally wrong then people will not believe them and never consider the alternative hypothesis true and correct.
The alternative and null hypothesis for Susie’s assumption is:
- Null Hypothesis: If one plant is watered with distilled water and the other with mineral water, then there is no difference in the growth and nourishment of these two plants.
- Alternative Hypothesis: If one plant is watered with distilled water and the other with mineral water, then the plant with mineral water shows better growth and nourishment.
The null hypothesis suggests that there is no significant or statistical relationship. The relation can either be in a single set of variables or among two sets of variables.
Most people consider the null hypothesis true and correct. Scientists work and perform different experiments and do a variety of research so that they can prove the null hypothesis wrong or nullify it. For this purpose, they design an alternate hypothesis that they think is correct or true. The null hypothesis symbol is H 0 (it is read as H null or H zero ).
Why is it named the “Null”?
The name null is given to this hypothesis to clarify and explain that the scientists are working to prove it false i.e. to nullify the hypothesis. Sometimes it confuses the readers; they might misunderstand it and think that statement has nothing. It is blank but, actually, it is not. It is more appropriate and suitable to call it a nullifiable hypothesis instead of the null hypothesis.
Why do we need to assess it? Why not just verify an alternate one?
In science, the scientific method is used. It involves a series of different steps. Scientists perform these steps so that a hypothesis can be proved false or true. Scientists do this to confirm that there will be any limitation or inadequacy in the new hypothesis. Experiments are done by considering both alternative and null hypotheses, which makes the research safe. It gives a negative as well as a bad impact on research if a null hypothesis is not included or a part of the study. It seems like you are not taking your research seriously and not concerned about it and just want to impose your results as correct and true if the null hypothesis is not a part of the study.
Development of the Null
In statistics, firstly it is necessary to design alternate and null hypotheses from the given problem. Splitting the problem into small steps makes the pathway towards the solution easier and less challenging. how to write a null hypothesis?
Writing a null hypothesis consists of two steps:
- Firstly, initiate by asking a question.
- Secondly, restate the question in such a way that it seems there are no relationships among the variables.
In other words, assume in such a way that the treatment does not have any effect.
The usual recovery duration after knee surgery is considered almost 8 weeks.
A researcher thinks that the recovery period may get elongated if patients go to a physiotherapist for rehabilitation twice per week, instead of thrice per week, i.e. recovery duration reduces if the patient goes three times for rehabilitation instead of two times.
Step 1: Look for the problem in the hypothesis. The hypothesis either be a word or can be a statement. In the above example the hypothesis is:
“The expected recovery period in knee rehabilitation is more than 8 weeks”
Step 2: Make a mathematical statement from the hypothesis. Averages can also be represented as μ, thus the null hypothesis formula will be.
In the above equation, the hypothesis is equivalent to H1, the average is denoted by μ and > that the average is greater than eight.
Step 3: Explain what will come up if the hypothesis does not come right i.e., the rehabilitation period may not proceed more than 08 weeks.
There are two options: either the recovery will be less than or equal to 8 weeks.
H 0 : μ ≤ 8
In the above equation, the null hypothesis is equivalent to H 0 , the average is denoted by μ and ≤ represents that the average is less than or equal to eight.
What will happen if the scientist does not have any knowledge about the outcome?
Problem: An investigator investigates the post-operative impact and influence of radical exercise on patients who have operative procedures of the knee. The chances are either the exercise will improve the recovery or will make it worse. The usual time for recovery is 8 weeks.
Step 1: Make a null hypothesis i.e. the exercise does not show any effect and the recovery time remains almost 8 weeks.
H 0 : μ = 8
In the above equation, the null hypothesis is equivalent to H 0 , the average is denoted by μ, and the equal sign (=) shows that the average is equal to eight.
Step 2: Make the alternate hypothesis which is the reverse of the null hypothesis. Particularly what will happen if treatment (exercise) makes an impact?
In the above equation, the alternate hypothesis is equivalent to H1, the average is denoted by μ and not equal sign (≠) represents that the average is not equal to eight.
To get a reasonable and probable clarification of statistics (data), a significance test is performed. The null hypothesis does not have data. It is a piece of information or statement which contains numerical figures about the population. The data can be in different forms like in means or proportions. It can either be the difference of proportions and means or any odd ratio.
The following table will explain the symbols:
P-value is the chief statistical final result of the significance test of the null hypothesis.
- P-value = Pr(data or data more extreme | H 0 true)
- | = “given”
- Pr = probability
- H 0 = the null hypothesis
The first stage of Null Hypothesis Significance Testing (NHST) is to form an alternate and null hypothesis. By this, the research question can be briefly explained.
Null Hypothesis = no effect of treatment, no difference, no association Alternative Hypothesis = effective treatment, difference, association
When to reject the null hypothesis?
Researchers will reject the null hypothesis if it is proven wrong after experimentation. Researchers accept null hypothesis to be true and correct until it is proven wrong or false. On the other hand, the researchers try to strengthen the alternate hypothesis. The binomial test is performed on a sample and after that, a series of tests were performed (Frick, 1995).
Step 1: Evaluate and read the research question carefully and consciously and make a null hypothesis. Verify the sample that supports the binomial proportion. If there is no difference then find out the value of the binomial parameter.
Show the null hypothesis as:
H 0 :p= the value of p if H 0 is true
To find out how much it varies from the proposed data and the value of the null hypothesis, calculate the sample proportion.
Step 2: In test statistics, find the binomial test that comes under the null hypothesis. The test must be based on precise and thorough probabilities. Also make a list of pmf that apply, when the null hypothesis proves true and correct.
When H 0 is true, X~b(n, p)
N = size of the sample
P = assume value if H 0 proves true.
Step 3: Find out the value of P. P-value is the probability of data that is under observation.
Rise or increase in the P value = Pr(X ≥ x)
X = observed number of successes
P value = Pr(X ≤ x).
Step 4: Demonstrate the findings or outcomes in a descriptive detailed way.
- Sample proportion
- The direction of difference (either increases or decreases)
Perceived Problems With the Null Hypothesis
Variable or model selection and less information in some cases are the chief important issues that affect the testing of the null hypothesis. Statistical tests of the null hypothesis are reasonably not strong. There is randomization about significance. (Gill, 1999) The main issue with the testing of the null hypothesis is that they all are wrong or false on a ground basis.
There is another problem with the a-level . This is an ignored but also a well-known problem. The value of a-level is without a theoretical basis and thus there is randomization in conventional values, most commonly 0.q, 0.5, or 0.01. If a fixed value of a is used, it will result in the formation of two categories (significant and non-significant) The issue of a randomized rejection or non-rejection is also present when there is a practical matter which is the strong point of the evidence related to a scientific matter.
The P-value has the foremost importance in the testing of null hypothesis but as an inferential tool and for interpretation, it has a problem. The P-value is the probability of getting a test statistic at least as extreme as the observed one.
The main point about the definition is: Observed results are not based on a-value
Moreover, the evidence against the null hypothesis was overstated due to unobserved results. A-value has importance more than just being a statement. It is a precise statement about the evidence from the observed results or data. Similarly, researchers found that P-values are objectionable. They do not prefer null hypotheses in testing. It is also clear that the P-value is strictly dependent on the null hypothesis. It is computer-based statistics. In some precise experiments, the null hypothesis statistics and actual sampling distribution are closely related but this does not become possible in observational studies.
Some researchers pointed out that the P-value is depending on the sample size. If the true and exact difference is small, a null hypothesis even of a large sample may get rejected. This shows the difference between biological importance and statistical significance. (Killeen, 2005)
Another issue is the fix a-level, i.e., 0.1. On the basis, if a-level a null hypothesis of a large sample may get accepted or rejected. If the size of simple is infinity and the null hypothesis is proved true there are still chances of Type I error. That is the reason this approach or method is not considered consistent and reliable. There is also another problem that the exact information about the precision and size of the estimated effect cannot be known. The only solution is to state the size of the effect and its precision.
Null Hypothesis Examples
Here are some examples:
Example 1: Hypotheses with One Sample of One Categorical Variable
Among all the population of humans, almost 10% of people prefer to do their task with their left hand i.e. left-handed. Let suppose, a researcher in the Penn States says that the population of students at the College of Arts and Architecture is mostly left-handed as compared to the general population of humans in general public society. In this case, there is only a sample and there is a comparison among the known population values to the population proportion of sample value.
- Research Question: Do artists more expected to be left-handed as compared to the common population persons in society?
- Response Variable: Sorting the student into two categories. One category has left-handed persons and the other category have right-handed persons.
- Form Null Hypothesis: Arts and Architecture college students are no more predicted to be lefty as compared to the common population persons in society (Lefty students of Arts and Architecture college population is 10% or p= 0.10)
Example 2: Hypotheses with One Sample of One Measurement Variable
A generic brand of antihistamine Diphenhydramine making medicine in the form of a capsule, having a 50mg dose. The maker of the medicines is concerned that the machine has come out of calibration and is not making more capsules with the suitable and appropriate dose.
- Research Question: Does the statistical data recommended about the mean and average dosage of the population differ from 50mg?
- Response Variable: Chemical assay used to find the appropriate dosage of the active ingredient.
- Null Hypothesis: Usually, the 50mg dosage of capsules of this trade name (population average and means dosage =50 mg).
Example 3: Hypotheses with Two Samples of One Categorical Variable
Several people choose vegetarian meals on a daily basis. Typically, the researcher thought that females like vegetarian meals more than males.
- Research Question: Does the data recommend that females (women) prefer vegetarian meals more than males (men) regularly?
- Response Variable: Cataloguing the persons into vegetarian and non-vegetarian categories. Grouping Variable: Gender
- Null Hypothesis: Gender is not linked to those who like vegetarian meals. (Population percent of women who eat vegetarian meals regularly = population percent of men who eat vegetarian meals regularly or p women = p men).
Example 4: Hypotheses with Two Samples of One Measurement Variable
Nowadays obesity and being overweight is one of the major and dangerous health issues. Research is performed to confirm that a low carbohydrates diet leads to faster weight loss than a low-fat diet.
- Research Question: Does the given data recommend that usually, a low-carbohydrate diet helps in losing weight faster as compared to a low-fat diet?
- Response Variable: Weight loss (pounds)
- Explanatory Variable: Form of diet either low carbohydrate or low fat
- Null Hypothesis: There is no significant difference when comparing the mean loss of weight of people using a low carbohydrate diet to people using a diet having low fat. (population means loss of weight on a low carbohydrate diet = population means loss of weight on a diet containing low fat).
Example 5: Hypotheses about the relationship between Two Categorical Variables
A case-control study was performed. The study contains nonsmokers, stroke patients, and controls. The subjects are of the same occupation and age and the question was asked if someone at their home or close surrounding smokes?
- Research Question: Did second-hand smoke enhance the chances of stroke?
- Variables: There are 02 diverse categories of variables. (Controls and stroke patients) (whether the smoker lives in the same house). The chances of having a stroke will be increased if a person is living with a smoker.
- Null Hypothesis: There is no significant relationship between a passive smoker and stroke or brain attack. (odds ratio between stroke and the passive smoker is equal to 1).
Example 6: Hypotheses about the relationship between Two Measurement Variables
A financial expert observes that there is somehow a positive and effective relationship between the variation in stock rate price and the quantity of stock bought by non-management employees
- Response variable- Regular alteration in price
- Explanatory Variable- Stock bought by non-management employees
- Null Hypothesis: The association and relationship between the regular stock price alteration ($) and the daily stock-buying by non-management employees ($) = 0.
Example 7: Hypotheses about comparing the relationship between Two Measurement Variables in Two Samples
- Research Question: Is the relation between the bill paid in a restaurant and the tip given to the waiter, is linear? Is this relation different for dining and family restaurants?
- Explanatory Variable- total bill amount
- Response Variable- the amount of tip
- Null Hypothesis: The relationship and association between the total bill quantity at a family or dining restaurant and the tip, is the same.
Try to answer the quiz below to check what you have learned so far about the null hypothesis.
Choose the best answer.
Send Your Results (Optional)
Time is Up!
- Blackwelder, W. C. (1982). “Proving the null hypothesis” in clinical trials. Controlled Clinical Trials , 3(4), 345–353.
- Frick, R. W. (1995). Accepting the null hypothesis. Memory & Cognition, 23(1), 132–138.
- Gill, J. (1999). The insignificance of null hypothesis significance testing. Political Research Quarterly , 52(3), 647–674.
- Killeen, P. R. (2005). An alternative to null-hypothesis significance tests. Psychological Science, 16(5), 345–353.
©BiologyOnline.com. Content provided and moderated by Biology Online Editors.
Last updated on June 16th, 2022
You will also like...
Genetics and Evolution
Humans are diploid creatures. This means that for every chromosome in the body, there is another one to match it. Howeve..
Temperature Regulation in Animals
This tutorial elucidates body temperature regulation. Know the details here to learn how the body sets the body temperat..
Origins of Life on Earth
Earth was created around 4.5 billion years ago and life began not long after. Primitive life likely possessed the elemen..
This tutorial describes the sigmoid curve, annual plant growth, tree growth, human growth, and insect growth as the grow..
Freshwater Producers and Consumers
Freshwater ecosystem is comprised of four major constituents, namely elements and compounds, plants, consumers, and deco..
Genetic Control – On and Off Genes
Genes are the blueprint of our bodies, a blueprint that creates a variety of proteins essential to any organism's surviv..
No related articles found
Module 9: Hypothesis Testing With One Sample
Null and alternative hypotheses, learning outcomes.
- Describe hypothesis testing in general and in practice
The actual test begins by considering two hypotheses . They are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis . These hypotheses contain opposing viewpoints.
H 0 : The null hypothesis: It is a statement about the population that either is believed to be true or is used to put forth an argument unless it can be shown to be incorrect beyond a reasonable doubt.
H a : The alternative hypothesis : It is a claim about the population that is contradictory to H 0 and what we conclude when we reject H 0 .
Since the null and alternative hypotheses are contradictory, you must examine evidence to decide if you have enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis or not. The evidence is in the form of sample data.
After you have determined which hypothesis the sample supports, you make adecision. There are two options for a decision . They are “reject H 0 ” if the sample information favors the alternative hypothesis or “do not reject H 0 ” or “decline to reject H 0 ” if the sample information is insufficient to reject the null hypothesis.
Mathematical Symbols Used in H 0 and H a :
H 0 always has a symbol with an equal in it. H a never has a symbol with an equal in it. The choice of symbol depends on the wording of the hypothesis test. However, be aware that many researchers (including one of the co-authors in research work) use = in the null hypothesis, even with > or < as the symbol in the alternative hypothesis. This practice is acceptable because we only make the decision to reject or not reject the null hypothesis.
H 0 : No more than 30% of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. p ≤ 30
H a : More than 30% of the registered voters in Santa Clara County voted in the primary election. p > 30
A medical trial is conducted to test whether or not a new medicine reduces cholesterol by 25%. State the null and alternative hypotheses.
H 0 : The drug reduces cholesterol by 25%. p = 0.25
H a : The drug does not reduce cholesterol by 25%. p ≠ 0.25
We want to test whether the mean GPA of students in American colleges is different from 2.0 (out of 4.0). The null and alternative hypotheses are:
H 0 : μ = 2.0
H a : μ ≠ 2.0
We want to test whether the mean height of eighth graders is 66 inches. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol (=, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses. H 0 : μ __ 66 H a : μ __ 66
- H 0 : μ = 66
- H a : μ ≠ 66
We want to test if college students take less than five years to graduate from college, on the average. The null and alternative hypotheses are:
H 0 : μ ≥ 5
H a : μ < 5
We want to test if it takes fewer than 45 minutes to teach a lesson plan. State the null and alternative hypotheses. Fill in the correct symbol ( =, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses. H 0 : μ __ 45 H a : μ __ 45
- H 0 : μ ≥ 45
- H a : μ < 45
In an issue of U.S. News and World Report , an article on school standards stated that about half of all students in France, Germany, and Israel take advanced placement exams and a third pass. The same article stated that 6.6% of U.S. students take advanced placement exams and 4.4% pass. Test if the percentage of U.S. students who take advanced placement exams is more than 6.6%. State the null and alternative hypotheses.
H 0 : p ≤ 0.066
H a : p > 0.066
On a state driver’s test, about 40% pass the test on the first try. We want to test if more than 40% pass on the first try. Fill in the correct symbol (=, ≠, ≥, <, ≤, >) for the null and alternative hypotheses. H 0 : p __ 0.40 H a : p __ 0.40
- H 0 : p = 0.40
- H a : p > 0.40
In a hypothesis test , sample data is evaluated in order to arrive at a decision about some type of claim. If certain conditions about the sample are satisfied, then the claim can be evaluated for a population. In a hypothesis test, we: Evaluate the null hypothesis , typically denoted with H 0 . The null is not rejected unless the hypothesis test shows otherwise. The null statement must always contain some form of equality (=, ≤ or ≥) Always write the alternative hypothesis , typically denoted with H a or H 1 , using less than, greater than, or not equals symbols, i.e., (≠, >, or <). If we reject the null hypothesis, then we can assume there is enough evidence to support the alternative hypothesis. Never state that a claim is proven true or false. Keep in mind the underlying fact that hypothesis testing is based on probability laws; therefore, we can talk only in terms of non-absolute certainties.
H 0 and H a are contradictory.
- OpenStax, Statistics, Null and Alternative Hypotheses. Provided by : OpenStax. Located at : http://cnx.org/contents/30189442-6998-[email protected]:58/Introductory_Statistics . License : CC BY: Attribution
- Introductory Statistics . Authored by : Barbara Illowski, Susan Dean. Provided by : Open Stax. Located at : http://cnx.org/contents/[email protected] . License : CC BY: Attribution . License Terms : Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]
- Simple hypothesis testing | Probability and Statistics | Khan Academy. Authored by : Khan Academy. Located at : https://youtu.be/5D1gV37bKXY . License : All Rights Reserved . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- Null and Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions & Examples
Null & Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions, Templates & Examples
Published on May 6, 2022 by Shaun Turney . Revised on December 6, 2022.
The null and alternative hypotheses are two competing claims that researchers weigh evidence for and against using a statistical test :
- Null hypothesis ( H 0 ): There’s no effect in the population .
- Alternative hypothesis ( H a or H 1 ) : There’s an effect in the population.
Table of contents
Answering your research question with hypotheses, what is a null hypothesis, what is an alternative hypothesis, similarities and differences between null and alternative hypotheses, how to write null and alternative hypotheses, frequently asked questions.
The null and alternative hypotheses offer competing answers to your research question . When the research question asks “Does the independent variable affect the dependent variable?”:
- The null hypothesis ( H 0 ) answers “No, there’s no effect in the population.”
- The alternative hypothesis ( H a ) answers “Yes, there is an effect in the population.”
The null and alternative are always claims about the population. That’s because the goal of hypothesis testing is to make inferences about a population based on a sample . Often, we infer whether there’s an effect in the population by looking at differences between groups or relationships between variables in the sample. It’s critical for your research to write strong hypotheses .
You can use a statistical test to decide whether the evidence favors the null or alternative hypothesis. Each type of statistical test comes with a specific way of phrasing the null and alternative hypothesis. However, the hypotheses can also be phrased in a general way that applies to any test.
The null hypothesis is the claim that there’s no effect in the population.
If the sample provides enough evidence against the claim that there’s no effect in the population ( p ≤ α), then we can reject the null hypothesis . Otherwise, we fail to reject the null hypothesis.
Although “fail to reject” may sound awkward, it’s the only wording that statisticians accept . Be careful not to say you “prove” or “accept” the null hypothesis.
Null hypotheses often include phrases such as “no effect,” “no difference,” or “no relationship.” When written in mathematical terms, they always include an equality (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).
You can never know with complete certainty whether there is an effect in the population. Some percentage of the time, your inference about the population will be incorrect. When you incorrectly reject the null hypothesis, it’s called a type I error . When you incorrectly fail to reject it, it’s a type II error.
Examples of null hypotheses
The table below gives examples of research questions and null hypotheses. There’s always more than one way to answer a research question, but these null hypotheses can help you get started.
*Note that some researchers prefer to always write the null hypothesis in terms of “no effect” and “=”. It would be fine to say that daily meditation has no effect on the incidence of depression and p 1 = p 2 .
Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services
Discover proofreading & editing
The alternative hypothesis ( H a ) is the other answer to your research question . It claims that there’s an effect in the population.
Often, your alternative hypothesis is the same as your research hypothesis. In other words, it’s the claim that you expect or hope will be true.
The alternative hypothesis is the complement to the null hypothesis. Null and alternative hypotheses are exhaustive, meaning that together they cover every possible outcome. They are also mutually exclusive, meaning that only one can be true at a time.
Alternative hypotheses often include phrases such as “an effect,” “a difference,” or “a relationship.” When alternative hypotheses are written in mathematical terms, they always include an inequality (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >). As with null hypotheses, there are many acceptable ways to phrase an alternative hypothesis.
Examples of alternative hypotheses
The table below gives examples of research questions and alternative hypotheses to help you get started with formulating your own.
Null and alternative hypotheses are similar in some ways:
- They’re both answers to the research question.
- They both make claims about the population.
- They’re both evaluated by statistical tests.
However, there are important differences between the two types of hypotheses, summarized in the following table.
To help you write your hypotheses, you can use the template sentences below. If you know which statistical test you’re going to use, you can use the test-specific template sentences. Otherwise, you can use the general template sentences.
General template sentences
The only thing you need to know to use these general template sentences are your dependent and independent variables. To write your research question, null hypothesis, and alternative hypothesis, fill in the following sentences with your variables:
Does independent variable affect dependent variable ?
- Null hypothesis ( H 0 ): Independent variable does not affect dependent variable.
- Alternative hypothesis ( H a ): Independent variable affects dependent variable.
Test-specific template sentences
Once you know the statistical test you’ll be using, you can write your hypotheses in a more precise and mathematical way specific to the test you chose. The table below provides template sentences for common statistical tests.
Note: The template sentences above assume that you’re performing one-tailed tests . One-tailed tests are appropriate for most studies.
Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.
Null and alternative hypotheses are used in statistical hypothesis testing . The null hypothesis of a test always predicts no effect or no relationship between variables, while the alternative hypothesis states your research prediction of an effect or relationship.
The null hypothesis is often abbreviated as H 0 . When the null hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an equality symbol (usually =, but sometimes ≥ or ≤).
The alternative hypothesis is often abbreviated as H a or H 1 . When the alternative hypothesis is written using mathematical symbols, it always includes an inequality symbol (usually ≠, but sometimes < or >).
A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (“ x affects y because …”).
A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses . In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Turney, S. (2022, December 06). Null & Alternative Hypotheses | Definitions, Templates & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/statistics/null-and-alternative-hypotheses/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, inferential statistics | an easy introduction & examples, hypothesis testing | a step-by-step guide with easy examples, type i & type ii errors | differences, examples, visualizations, what is your plagiarism score.
- Science Notes Posts
- Contact Science Notes
- Todd Helmenstine Biography
- Anne Helmenstine Biography
- Free Printable Periodic Tables (PDF and PNG)
- Periodic Table Wallpapers
- Interactive Periodic Table
- Periodic Table Posters
- How to Grow Crystals
- Chemistry Projects
- Fire and Flames Projects
- Holiday Science
- Chemistry Problems With Answers
- Physics Problems
- Unit Conversion Example Problems
- Chemistry Worksheets
- Biology Worksheets
- Periodic Table Worksheets
- Physical Science Worksheets
- Science Lab Worksheets
Null Hypothesis Examples Recently updated !
The null hypothesis (H 0 ) is the hypothesis that states there is no statistical difference between two sample sets. In other words, it assumes the independent variable does not have an effect on the dependent variable in a scientific experiment .
The null hypothesis is the most powerful type of hypothesis in the scientific method because it’s the easiest one to test with a high confidence level using statistics. If the null hypothesis is accepted, then it’s evidence any observed differences between two experiment groups are due to random chance. If the null hypothesis is rejected, then it’s strong evidence there is a true difference between test sets or that the independent variable affects the dependent variable.
- The null hypothesis is a nullifiable hypothesis. A researcher seeks to reject it because this result strongly indicates observed differences are real and not just due to chance.
- The null hypothesis may be accepted or rejected, but not proven. There is always a level of confidence in the outcome.
What Is the Null Hypothesis?
The null hypothesis is written as H 0 , which is read as H-zero, H-nought, or H-null. It is associated with another hypothesis, called the alternate or alternative hypothesis H A or H 1 . When the null hypothesis and alternate hypothesis are written mathematically, they cover all possible outcomes of an experiment.
An experimenter tests the null hypothesis with a statistical analysis called a significance test. The significance test determines the likelihood that the results of the test are not due to chance. Usually, a researcher uses a confidence level of 95% or 99% (p-value of 0.05 or 0.01). But, even if the confidence in the test is high, there is always a small chance the outcome is incorrect. This means you can’t prove a null hypothesis. It’s also a good reason why it’s important to repeat experiments.
Exact and Inexact Null Hypothesis
The most common type of null hypothesis assumes no difference between two samples or groups or no measurable effect of a treatment. This is the exact hypothesis . If you’re asked to state a null hypothesis for a science class, this is the one to write. It is the easiest type of hypothesis to test and is the only one accepted for certain types of analysis. Examples include:
There is no difference between two groups H 0 : μ 1 = μ 2 (where H 0 = the null hypothesis, μ 1 = the mean of population 1, and μ 2 = the mean of population 2)
Both groups have value of 100 (or any number or quality) H 0 : μ = 100
However, sometimes a researcher may test an inexact hypothesis . This type of hypothesis specifies ranges or intervals. Examples include:
Recovery time from a treatment is the same or worse than a placebo: H 0 : μ ≥ placebo time
There is a 5% or less difference between two groups: H 0 : 95 ≤ μ ≤ 105
An inexact hypothesis offers “directionality” about a phenomenon. For example, an exact hypothesis can indicate whether or not a treatment has an effect, while an inexact hypothesis can tell whether an effect is positive of negative. However, an inexact hypothesis may be harder to test and some scientists and statisticians disagree about whether it’s a true null hypothesis .
How to State the Null Hypothesis
To state the null hypothesis, first state what you expect the experiment to show. Then, rephrase the statement in a form that assumes there is no relationship between the variables or that a treatment has no effect.
Example: A researcher tests whether a new drug speeds recovery time from a certain disease. The average recovery time without treatment is 3 weeks.
- State the goal of the experiment: “I hope the average recovery time with the new drug will be less than 3 weeks.”
- Rephrase the hypothesis to assume the treatment has no effect: “If the drug doesn’t shorten recovery time, then the average time will be 3 weeks or longer.” Mathematically: H 0 : μ ≥ 3
This null hypothesis (inexact hypothesis) covers both the scenario in which the drug has no effect and the one in which the drugs makes the recovery time longer. The alternate hypothesis is that average recovery time will be less than three weeks:
H A : μ < 3
Of course, the researcher could test the no-effect hypothesis (exact null hypothesis): H 0 : μ = 3
The danger of testing this hypothesis is that rejecting it only implies the drug affected recovery time (not whether it made it better or worse). This is because the alternate hypothesis is:
H A : μ ≠ 3 (which includes μ <3 and μ >3)
Even though the no-effect null hypothesis yields less information, it’s used because it’s easier to test using statistics. Basically, testing whether something is unchanged/changed is easier than trying to quantify the nature of the change.
Null Hypothesis Examples
Remember, a researcher hopes to reject the null hypothesis because this supports the alternate hypothesis. Also, be sure the null and alternate hypothesis cover all outcomes. Finally, remember a simple true/false, equal/unequal, yes/no exact hypothesis is easier to test than a more complex inexact hypothesis.
- Adèr, H. J.; Mellenbergh, G. J. & Hand, D. J. (2007). Advising on Research Methods: A Consultant’s Companion . Huizen, The Netherlands: Johannes van Kessel Publishing. ISBN 978-90-79418-01-5 .
- Cox, D. R. (2006). Principles of Statistical Inference . Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68567-2 .
- Everitt, Brian (1998). The Cambridge Dictionary of Statistics . Cambridge, UK New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521593465.
- Weiss, Neil A. (1999). Introductory Statistics (5th ed.). ISBN 9780201598773.
- Math Article
In mathematics, Statistics deals with the study of research and surveys on the numerical data. For taking surveys, we have to define the hypothesis. Generally, there are two types of hypothesis. One is a null hypothesis, and another is an alternative hypothesis .
In probability and statistics, the null hypothesis is a comprehensive statement or default status that there is zero happening or nothing happening. For example, there is no connection among groups or no association between two measured events. It is generally assumed here that the hypothesis is true until any other proof has been brought into the light to deny the hypothesis. Let us learn more here with definition, symbol, principle, types and example, in this article.
Table of contents:
- Comparison with Alternative Hypothesis
Null Hypothesis Definition
The null hypothesis is a kind of hypothesis which explains the population parameter whose purpose is to test the validity of the given experimental data. This hypothesis is either rejected or not rejected based on the viability of the given population or sample . In other words, the null hypothesis is a hypothesis in which the sample observations results from the chance. It is said to be a statement in which the surveyors wants to examine the data. It is denoted by H 0 .
Null Hypothesis Symbol
In statistics, the null hypothesis is usually denoted by letter H with subscript ‘0’ (zero), such that H 0 . It is pronounced as H-null or H-zero or H-nought. At the same time, the alternative hypothesis expresses the observations determined by the non-random cause. It is represented by H 1 or H a .
Null Hypothesis Principle
The principle followed for null hypothesis testing is, collecting the data and determining the chances of a given set of data during the study on some random sample, assuming that the null hypothesis is true. In case if the given data does not face the expected null hypothesis, then the outcome will be quite weaker, and they conclude by saying that the given set of data does not provide strong evidence against the null hypothesis because of insufficient evidence. Finally, the researchers tend to reject that.
Null Hypothesis Formula
Here, the hypothesis test formulas are given below for reference.
The formula for the null hypothesis is:
H 0 : p = p 0
The formula for the alternative hypothesis is:
H a = p >p 0 , < p 0 ≠ p 0
The formula for the test static is:
Remember that, p 0 is the null hypothesis and p – hat is the sample proportion.
Types of Null Hypothesis
There are different types of hypothesis. They are:
It completely specifies the population distribution. In this method, the sampling distribution is the function of the sample size.
The composite hypothesis is one that does not completely specify the population distribution.
Exact hypothesis defines the exact value of the parameter. For example μ= 50
This type of hypothesis does not define the exact value of the parameter. But it denotes a specific range or interval. For example 45< μ <60
Null Hypothesis Rejection
Sometimes the null hypothesis is rejected too. If this hypothesis is rejected means, that research could be invalid. Many researchers will neglect this hypothesis as it is merely opposite to the alternate hypothesis. It is a better practice to create a hypothesis and test it. The goal of researchers is not to reject the hypothesis. But it is evident that a perfect statistical model is always associated with the failure to reject the null hypothesis.
How do you Find the Null Hypothesis?
The null hypothesis says there is no correlation between the measured event (the dependent variable) and the independent variable. We don’t have to believe that the null hypothesis is true to test it. On the contrast, you will possibly assume that there is a connection between a set of variables ( dependent and independent).
When is Null Hypothesis Rejected?
The null hypothesis is rejected using the P-value approach. If the P-value is less than or equal to the α, there should be a rejection of the null hypothesis in favour of the alternate hypothesis. In case, if P-value is greater than α, the null hypothesis is not rejected.
Null Hypothesis and Alternative Hypothesis
Now, let us discuss the difference between the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis.
Null Hypothesis Examples
Here, some of the examples of the null hypothesis are given below. Go through the below ones to understand the concept of the null hypothesis in a better way.
If a medicine reduces the risk of cardiac stroke, then the null hypothesis should be “the medicine does not reduce the chance of cardiac stroke”. This testing can be performed by the administration of a drug to a certain group of people in a controlled way. If the survey shows that there is a significant change in the people, then the hypothesis is rejected.
Few more examples are:
1). Are there is 100% chance of getting affected by dengue?
Ans: There could be chances of getting affected by dengue but not 100%.
2). Do teenagers are using mobile phones more than grown-ups to access the internet?
Ans: Age has no limit on using mobile phones to access the internet.
3). Does having apple daily will not cause fever?
Ans: Having apple daily does not assure of not having fever, but increases the immunity to fight against such diseases.
4). Do the children more good in doing mathematical calculations than grown-ups?
Ans: Age has no effect on Mathematical skills.
In many common applications, the choice of the null hypothesis is not automated, but the testing and calculations may be automated. Also, the choice of the null hypothesis is completely based on previous experiences and inconsistent advice. The choice can be more complicated and based on the variety of applications and the diversity of the objectives.
The main limitation for the choice of the null hypothesis is that the hypothesis suggested by the data is based on the reasoning which proves nothing. It means that if some hypothesis provides a summary of the data set, then there would be no value in the testing of the hypothesis on the particular set of data.
Frequently Asked Questions on Null Hypothesis
What is meant by the null hypothesis.
In Statistics, a null hypothesis is a type of hypothesis which explains the population parameter whose purpose is to test the validity of the given experimental data.
What are the benefits of hypothesis testing?
Hypothesis testing is defined as a form of inferential statistics, which allows making conclusions from the entire population based on the sample representative.
When a null hypothesis is accepted and rejected?
The null hypothesis is either accepted or rejected in terms of the given data. If P-value is less than α, then the null hypothesis is rejected in favor of the alternative hypothesis, and if the P-value is greater than α, then the null hypothesis is accepted in favor of the alternative hypothesis.
Why is the null hypothesis important?
The importance of the null hypothesis is that it provides an approximate description of the phenomena of the given data. It allows the investigators to directly test the relational statement in a research study.
How to accept or reject the null hypothesis in the chi-square test?
If the result of the chi-square test is bigger than the critical value in the table, then the data does not fit the model, which represents the rejection of the null hypothesis.
Put your understanding of this concept to test by answering a few MCQs. Click ‘Start Quiz’ to begin!
Select the correct answer and click on the “Finish” button Check your score and answers at the end of the quiz
Visit BYJU’S for all Maths related queries and study materials
Your result is as below
- Share Share
Register with BYJU'S & Download Free PDFs
- Null hypothesis
by Marco Taboga , PhD
In a test of hypothesis , a sample of data is used to decide whether to reject or not to reject a hypothesis about the probability distribution from which the sample was extracted.
The hypothesis is called the null hypothesis, or simply "the null".
Table of contents
The null is like the defendant in a criminal trial
How is the null hypothesis tested, example 1 - proportion of defective items, measurement, test statistic, critical region, interpretation, example 2 - reliability of a production plant, rejection and failure to reject, not rejecting and accepting are not the same thing, failure to reject can be due to lack of power, rejections are easier to interpret, but be careful, takeaways - how to (and not to) formulate a null hypothesis, more examples, more details, best practices in science, keep reading the glossary.
Formulating null hypotheses and subjecting them to statistical testing is one of the workhorses of the scientific method.
Scientists in all fields make conjectures about the phenomena they study, translate them into null hypotheses and gather data to test them.
This process resembles a trial:
the defendant (the null hypothesis) is accused of being guilty (wrong);
evidence (data) is gathered in order to prove the defendant guilty (reject the null);
if there is evidence beyond any reasonable doubt, the defendant is found guilty (the null is rejected);
otherwise, the defendant is found not guilty (the null is not rejected).
Keep this analogy in mind because it helps to better understand statistical tests, their limitations, use and misuse, and frequent misinterpretation.
Before collecting the data:
we decide how to summarize the relevant characteristics of the sample data in a single number, the so-called test statistic ;
we derive the probability distribution of the test statistic under the hypothesis that the null is true (the data is regarded as random; therefore, the test statistic is a random variable);
we decide what probability of incorrectly rejecting the null we are willing to tolerate (the level of significance , or size of the test ); the level of significance is typically a small number, such as 5% or 1%.
we choose one or more intervals of values (collectively called rejection region) such that the probability that the test statistic falls within these intervals is equal to the desired level of significance; the rejection region is often a tail of the distribution of the test statistic (one-tailed test) or the union of the left and right tails (two-tailed test).
Then, the data is collected and used to compute the value of the test statistic.
A decision is taken as follows:
if the test statistic falls within the rejection region, then the null hypothesis is rejected;
otherwise, it is not rejected.
We now make two examples of practical problems that lead to formulate and test a null hypothesis.
A new method is proposed to produce light bulbs.
The proponents claim that it produces less defective bulbs than the method currently in use.
To check the claim, we can set up a statistical test as follows.
We keep the light bulbs on for 10 consecutive days, and then we record whether they are still working at the end of the test period.
The probability that a light bulb produced with the new method is still working at the end of the test period is the same as that of a light bulb produced with the old method.
100 light bulbs are tested:
50 of them are produced with the new method (group A)
the remaining 50 are produced with the old method (group B).
The final data comprises 100 observations of:
an indicator variable which is equal to 1 if the light bulb is still working at the end of the test period and 0 otherwise;
a categorical variable that records the group (A or B) to which each light bulb belongs.
We use the data to compute the proportions of working light bulbs in groups A and B.
The proportions are estimates of the probabilities of not being defective, which are equal for the two groups under the null hypothesis.
We then compute a z-statistic (see here for details) by:
taking the difference between the proportion in group A and the proportion in group B;
standardizing the difference:
we subtract the expected value (which is zero under the null hypothesis);
we divide by the standard deviation (it can be derived analytically).
The distribution of the z-statistic can be approximated by a standard normal distribution .
We decide that the level of confidence must be 5%. In other words, we are going to tolerate a 5% probability of incorrectly rejecting the null hypothesis.
The critical region is the right 5%-tail of the normal distribution, that is, the set of all values greater than 1.645 (see the glossary entry on critical values if you are wondering how this value was obtained).
If the test statistic is greater than 1.645, then the null hypothesis is rejected; otherwise, it is not rejected.
A rejection is interpreted as significant evidence that the new production method produces less defective items; failure to reject is interpreted as insufficient evidence that the new method is better.
A production plant incurs high costs when production needs to be halted because some machinery fails.
The plant manager has decided that he is not willing to tolerate more than one halt per year on average.
If the expected number of halts per year is greater than 1, he will make new investments in order to improve the reliability of the plant.
A statistical test is set up as follows.
The reliability of the plant is measured by the number of halts.
The number of halts in a year is assumed to have a Poisson distribution with expected value equal to 1 (using the Poisson distribution is common in reliability testing).
The manager cannot wait more than one year before taking a decision.
There will be a single datum at his disposal: the number of halts observed during one year.
The number of halts is used as a test statistic. By assumption, it has a Poisson distribution under the null hypothesis.
The manager decides that the probability of incorrectly rejecting the null can be at most 10%.
A Poisson random variable with expected value equal to 1 takes values:
larger than 1 with probability 26.42%;
larger than 2 with probability 8.03%.
Therefore, it is decided that the critical region will be the set of all values greater than or equal to 3.
If the test statistic is strictly greater than or equal to 3, then the null is rejected; otherwise, it is not rejected.
A rejection is interpreted as significant evidence that the production plant is not reliable enough (the average number of halts per year is significantly larger than tolerated).
Failure to reject is interpreted as insufficient evidence that the plant is unreliable.
This section discusses the main problems that arise in the interpretation of the outcome of a statistical test (reject / not reject).
When the test statistic does not fall within the critical region, then we do not reject the null hypothesis.
Does this mean that we accept the null? Not really.
In general, failure to reject does not constitute, per se, strong evidence that the null hypothesis is true .
Remember the analogy between hypothesis testing and a criminal trial. In a trial, when the defendant is declared not guilty, this does not mean that the defendant is innocent. It only means that there was not enough evidence (not beyond any reasonable doubt) against the defendant.
In turn, lack of evidence can be due:
either to the fact that the defendant is innocent ;
or to the fact that the prosecution has not been able to provide enough evidence against the defendant, even if the latter is guilty .
This is the very reason why courts do not declare defendants innocent, but they use the locution "not guilty".
In a similar fashion, statisticians do not say that the null hypothesis has been accepted, but they say that it has not been rejected.
To better understand why failure to reject does not in general constitute strong evidence that the null hypothesis is true, we need to use the concept of statistical power .
The power of a test is the probability (calculated ex-ante, i.e., before observing the data) that the null will be rejected when another hypothesis (called the alternative hypothesis ) is true.
Let's consider the first of the two examples above (the production of light bulbs).
In that example, the null hypothesis is: the probability that a light bulb is defective does not decrease after introducing a new production method.
Let's make the alternative hypothesis that the probability of being defective is 1% smaller after changing the production process (assume that a 1% decrease is considered a meaningful improvement by engineers).
How much is the ex-ante probability of rejecting the null if the alternative hypothesis is true?
If this probability (the power of the test) is small, then it is very likely that we will not reject the null even if it is wrong.
If we use the analogy with criminal trials, low power means that most likely the prosecution will not be able to provide sufficient evidence, even if the defendant is guilty.
Thus, in the case of lack of power, failure to reject is almost meaningless (it was anyway highly likely).
This is why, before performing a test, it is good statistical practice to compute its power against a relevant alternative .
If the power is found to be too small, there are usually remedies. In particular, statistical power can usually be increased by increasing the sample size (see, e.g., the lecture on hypothesis tests about the mean ).
As we have explained above, interpreting a failure to reject the null hypothesis is not always straightforward. Instead, interpreting a rejection is somewhat easier.
When we reject the null, we know that the data has provided a lot of evidence against the null. In other words, it is unlikely (how unlikely depends on the size of the test) that the null is true given the data we have observed.
There is an important caveat though. The null hypothesis is often made up of several assumptions, including:
the main assumption (the one we are testing);
other assumptions (e.g., technical assumptions) that we need to make in order to set up the hypothesis test.
For instance, in Example 2 above (reliability of a production plant), the main assumption is that the expected number of production halts per year is equal to 1. But there is also a technical assumption: the number of production halts has a Poisson distribution.
It must be kept in mind that a rejection is always a joint rejection of the main assumption and all the other assumptions .
Therefore, we should always ask ourselves whether the null has been rejected because the main assumption is wrong or because the other assumptions are violated.
In the case of Example 2 above, is a rejection of the null due to the fact that the expected number of halts is greater than 1 or is it due to the fact that the distribution of the number of halts is very different from a Poisson distribution?
When we suspect that a rejection is due to the inappropriateness of some technical assumption (e.g., assuming a Poisson distribution in the example), we say that the rejection could be due to misspecification of the model .
The right thing to do when these kind of suspicions arise is to conduct so-called robustness checks , that is, to change the technical assumptions and carry out the test again.
In our example, we could re-run the test by assuming a different probability distribution for the number of halts (e.g., a negative binomial or a compound Poisson - do not worry if you have never heard about these distributions).
If we keep obtaining a rejection of the null even after changing the technical assumptions several times, the we say that our rejection is robust to several different specifications of the model .
What are the main practical implications of everything we have said thus far? How does the theory above help us to set up and test a null hypothesis?
What we said can be summarized in the following guiding principles:
A test of hypothesis is like a criminal trial and you are the prosecutor . You want to find evidence that the defendant (the null hypothesis) is guilty. Your job is not to prove that the defendant is innocent. If you find yourself hoping that the defendant is found not guilty (i.e., the null is not rejected) then something is wrong with the way you set up the test. Remember: you are the prosecutor.
Compute the power of your test against one or more relevant alternative hypotheses. Do not run a test if you know ex-ante that it is unlikely to reject the null when the alternative hypothesis is true.
Beware of technical assumptions that you add to the main assumption you want to test. Make robustness checks in order to verify that the outcome of the test is not biased by model misspecification.
More examples of null hypotheses and how to test them can be found in the following lectures.
The lecture on Hypothesis testing provides a more detailed mathematical treatment of null hypotheses and how they are tested.
This lecture on the null hypothesis was featured in Stanford University's Best practices in science .
Previous entry: Normal equations
Next entry: Parameter
How to cite
Please cite as:
Taboga, Marco (2021). "Null hypothesis", Lectures on probability theory and mathematical statistics. Kindle Direct Publishing. Online appendix. https://www.statlect.com/glossary/null-hypothesis.
Most of the learning materials found on this website are now available in a traditional textbook format.
- Characteristic function
- Almost sure convergence
- Likelihood ratio test
- Uniform distribution
- Bernoulli distribution
- Multivariate normal distribution
- Chi-square distribution
- Maximum likelihood
- Mathematical tools
- Fundamentals of probability
- Probability distributions
- Asymptotic theory
- Fundamentals of statistics
- About Statlect
- Precision matrix
- Distribution function
- Mean squared error
- IID sequence
- To enhance your privacy,
- we removed the social buttons,
- but don't forget to share .
The null hypothesis assumes that any kind of difference between the chosen characteristics that you see in a set of data is due to chance. For example, if the
Examples of the Null Hypothesis ; Do cats care about the color of their food? Cats express no food preference based on color. ; Does chewing
How to State the Null Hypothesis ... Example Problem: A researcher thinks that if knee surgery patients go to physical therapy twice a week (instead of 3 times)
Null Hypothesis: If one plant is watered with distilled water and the other with mineral water, then there is no difference in the growth and
For example, a vaccine experiment compares the infection rate in the treatment group to the control group. The treatment group receives the vaccine, while the
There are two options for a decision. They are “reject H 0” if the sample information favors the alternative hypothesis or “do not reject H 0” or “decline
Examples of null hypotheses ; Research question · General, Test-specific ; Does tooth flossing affect the number of cavities? Tooth flossing has no
The null hypothesis assumes no difference between two groups or that the independent variable has no effect on the dependent variable.
In probability and statistics, the null hypothesis is a comprehensive statement or default status that there is zero happening or nothing happening.
In that example, the null hypothesis is: the probability that a light bulb is defective does not decrease after introducing a new production method. Let's make