Redefine statistical significance

Dienes, Zoltan, Field, Andy and et al, (2017) Redefine statistical significance. Nature Human Behaviour. ISSN 2397-3374

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Abstract

The lack of reproducibility of scientific studies has caused growing concern over the credibility of claims of new discoveries based on “statistically significant” findings. There has been much progress toward documenting and addressing several causes of this lack of reproducibility (e.g., multiple testing, P-hacking, publication bias, and under-powered studies). However, we believe that a leading cause of non-reproducibility has not yet been adequately addressed: Statistical standards of evidence for claiming discoveries in many fields of science are simply too low. Associating “statistically significant” findings with P < 0.05 results in a high rate of false positives even in the absence of other experimental, procedural and reporting problems.

For fields where the threshold for defining statistical significance is P<0.05, we propose a change to P<0.005. This simple step would immediately improve the reproducibility of scientific research in many fields. Results that would currently be called “significant” but do not meet the new threshold should instead be called “suggestive.” While statisticians have known the relative weakness of using P≈0.05 as a threshold for discovery and the proposal to lower it to 0.005 is not new (1, 2), a critical mass of researchers now endorse this change.

We restrict our recommendation to claims of discovery of new effects. We do not address the appropriate threshold for confirmatory or contradictory replications of existing claims. We also do not advocate changes to discovery thresholds in fields that have already adopted more stringent standards (e.g., genomics and high-energy physics research; see Potential Objections below).

We also restrict our recommendation to studies that conduct null hypothesis significance tests. We have diverse views about how best to improve reproducibility, and many of us believe that other ways of summarizing the data, such as Bayes factors or other posterior summaries based on clearly articulated model assumptions, are preferable to P-values. However, changing the P-value threshold is simple and might quickly achieve broad acceptance.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Ellena Adams
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2017 14:46
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2017 08:55
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/69363

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