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probability that observed correlation occurred by chance. For that, we have to

conduct a significance test. In significance testing we are mostly interested in

determining the probability that correlation is the real one and not a chance

occurrence. For this we determine hypothesis. There are two types of

hypothesis.

Null hypothesis: In Null hypothesis we assume that there is no

correlation between the two variables.

Alternative hypothesis: In alternative hypothesis we assume that there is a

correlation between variables.

Before testing the hypothesis, we have to determine the significance level. In

most of the cases, it is assumed as .05 or .01. At 5% level of significance, it

means that we are conducting a test, where the odds are the case that the

correlation is a chance occurrence is no more than 5 out of 100. After

determining the significance level, we calculate the correlation coefficient

value. The correlation coefficient value is determined by r sign.

Many researchers get very excited when they have discovered a "statistically

significant" finding, without really understanding what it means. When a

statistic is significant, it simply means that you are very sure that the statistic

is reliable. It doesn't mean the finding is important or that it has any decisionmaking utility.

For example, suppose we give 1,000 people an IQ test, and we ask if there is a

significant difference between male and female scores. The mean score for

males is 98 and the mean score for females is 100. We use an independent

groups t-test and find that the difference is significant at the .001 level. The big

question is, "So what?". The difference between 98 and 100 on an IQ test is a

very small difference...so small, in fact, that its not even important.

Then why did the t-statistic come out significant? Because there was a large

sample size. When you have a large sample size, very small differences will be

detected as significant. This means that you are very sure that the difference is

real (i.e., it didn't happen by fluke). It doesn't mean that the difference is large

or important. If we had only given the IQ test to 25 people instead of 1,000, the

two-point difference between males and females would not have been

significant.

Significance is a statistical term that tells how sure you are that a difference or

relationship exists. To say that a significant difference or relationship exists only

tells half the story. We might be very sure that a relationship exists, but is it a

strong, moderate, or weak relationship? After finding a significant relationship,

it is important to evaluate its strength. Significant relationships can be strong

or weak. Significant differences can be large or small. It just depends on your

sample size.

Many researchers use the word "significant" to describe a finding that may

have decision-making utility to a client. From a statistician's viewpoint, this is

an incorrect use of the word. However, the word "significant" has virtually

universal meaning to the public. Thus, many researchers use the word

"significant" to describe a difference or relationship that may be strategically

important to a client (regardless of any statistical tests). In these situations, the

word "significant" is used to advise a client to take note of a particular

difference or relationship because it may be relevant to the company's

strategic plan. The word "significant" is not the exclusive domain of

statisticians and either use is correct in the business world. Thus, for the

statistician, it may be wise to adopt a policy of always referring to "statistical

significance" rather than simply "significance" when communicating with the

public.

One important concept in significance testing is whether you use a one-tailed

or two-tailed test of significance. The answer is that it depends on your

hypothesis. When your research hypothesis states the direction of the

difference or relationship, then you use a one-tailed probability. For example, a

one-tailed test would be used to test these null hypotheses: Females will not

score significantly higher than males on an IQ test. Blue collar workers are will

not buy significantly more product than white collar workers. Superman is not

significantly stronger than the average person. In each case, the null

hypothesis (indirectly) predicts the direction of the difference. A two-tailed test

would be used to test these null hypotheses: There will be no significant

difference in IQ scores between males and females. There will be no significant

difference in the amount of product purchased between blue collar and white

collar workers. There is no significant difference in strength between Superman

and the average person. The one-tailed probability is exactly half the value of

the two-tailed probability.

There is a raging controversy (for about the last hundred years) on whether or

not it is ever appropriate to use a one-tailed test. The rationale is that if you

already know the direction of the difference, why bother doing any statistical

tests. While it is generally safest to use a two-tailed tests, there are situations

where a one-tailed test seems more appropriate. The bottom line is that it is

questions.

Whenever we perform a significance test, it involves comparing a test value

that we have calculated to some critical value for the statistic. It doesn't matter

what type of statistic we are calculating (e.g., a t-statistic, a chi-square

statistic, an F-statistic, etc.), the procedure to test for significance is the same.

1. Decide on the critical alpha level you will use (i.e., the error rate you are

willing to accept).

2. Conduct the research.

3. Calculate the statistic.

4. Compare the statistic to a critical value obtained from a table.

5. If your statistic is higher than the critical value from the table:

a. Your finding is significant.

b. You reject the null hypothesis(Null hypothesis: In Null

hypothesis we assume that there is no correlation between

the two variables).

c. The probability is small that the difference or relationship

happened by chance, and p is less than the critical alpha level (p

< alpha ).

6. If your statistic is lower than the critical value from the table:

a. Your finding is not significant.

b. You fail to reject the null hypothesis.

c. The probability is high that the difference or relationship

happened by chance, and p is greater than the critical alpha level

(p > alpha ).

Modern computer software can calculate exact probabilities for most test

statistics. If you have an exact probability from computer software, simply

compare it to your critical alpha level. If the exact probability is less than the

critical alpha level, your finding is significant, and if the exact probability is

greater than your critical alpha level, your finding is not significant. Using a

table is not necessary when you have the exact probability for a statistic.

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