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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2011 May;6(3):274-90. doi: 10.1177/1745691611406920.

Bayesian Versus Orthodox Statistics: Which Side Are You On?

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School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom


Researchers are often confused about what can be inferred from significance tests. One problem occurs when people apply Bayesian intuitions to significance testing-two approaches that must be firmly separated. This article presents some common situations in which the approaches come to different conclusions; you can see where your intuitions initially lie. The situations include multiple testing, deciding when to stop running participants, and when a theory was thought of relative to finding out results. The interpretation of nonsignificant results has also been persistently problematic in a way that Bayesian inference can clarify. The Bayesian and orthodox approaches are placed in the context of different notions of rationality, and I accuse myself and others as having been irrational in the way we have been using statistics on a key notion of rationality. The reader is shown how to apply Bayesian inference in practice, using free online software, to allow more coherent inferences from data.


Bayes; evidence; likelihood principle; significance testing; statistical inference


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