Null Hypothesis (1 of 4)

The null hypothesis is an hypothesis about a population parameter. The purpose of hypothesis testing is to test the viability of the null hypothesis in the light of experimental data. Depending on the data, the null hypothesis either will or will not be rejected as a viable possibility.

Consider a researcher interested in whether the time to respond to a tone is affected by the consumption of alcohol. The null hypothesis is that µ1 - µ2 = 0 where µ1 is the mean time to respond after consuming alcohol and µ2 is the mean time to respond otherwise. Thus, the null hypothesis concerns the parameter µ1 - µ2 and the null hypothesis is that the parameter equals zero.

The null hypothesis is often the reverse of what the experimenter actually believes; it is put forward to allow the data to contradict it. In the experiment on the effect of alcohol, the experimenter probably expects alcohol to have a harmful effect. If the experimental data show a sufficiently large effect of alcohol, then the null hypothesis that alcohol has no effect can be rejected. next