MPR-online 2002 Vol.7 No.1

Misinterpretations of Significance: A Problem Students Share with Their Teachers?

Heiko Haller & Stefan Kraus

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The use of significance tests in science has been debated from the invention of these tests until the present time. Apart from theoretical critiques on their appropriateness for evaluating scientific hypotheses, significance tests also receive criticism for inviting misinterpretations. We presented six common misinterpretations to psychologists who work in German universities and found out that they are still surprisingly widespread - even among instructors who teach statistics to psychology students. Although these mi-sinterpretations are well documented among students, until now there has been little research on pedagogical methods to remove them. Rather, they are considered "hard facts" that are impervious to correction. We discuss the roots of these misinterpreta-tions and propose a pedagogical concept to teach significance tests, which involves ex-plaining the meaning of statistical significance in an appropriate way.

Keywords: significance tests


IPN - Institute for Science Education
at the University of Kiel, Germany

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