Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Bayesian and Classical Hypothesis Testing: Practical Differences for a Controversial Area of research/Pruebas De Hipotesis Bayesiana Y Clasica: Diferencias Practicas Para Un Area De Investigacion Pol'emica/ le Test D'hypotheses Bayesien et Classique: Differences Pratiques Dans Un Champ De Recherche Controverse/ Bayessche Und Klassische Hypothesenprufung: Praktische Unterschiede Fur ein Kontroverses

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Bayesian and Classical Hypothesis Testing: Practical Differences for a Controversial Area of research/Pruebas De Hipotesis Bayesiana Y Clasica: Diferencias Practicas Para Un Area De Investigacion Pol'emica/ le Test D'hypotheses Bayesien et Classique: Differences Pratiques Dans Un Champ De Recherche Controverse/ Bayessche Und Klassische Hypothesenprufung: Praktische Unterschiede Fur ein Kontroverses

Article excerpt

The use of Bayesian analysis has been rapidly increasing in science and is becoming conspicuous in scientific controversies. For example, Wagenmakers, Wetzels, Borsboom, and van der Maas (2011) argued that classical analyses supporting parapsychological effects are evidence that classical methods are faulty and should be replaced with Bayesian methods. Bern, Utts, and Johnson (2011) responded that certain aspects of this analysis were flawed, but agreed that Bayesian methods have advantages that will be increasingly utilized in scientific research. Debates like this typically focus on specialized technical points without presenting the fundamental assumptions and models that provide the crucial context for understanding and evaluating the arguments.

The present article is intended to describe conceptually the philosophical assumptions, models, and practical aspects that differ between Bayesian and classical hypothesis testing. This discussion should allow a person to conceptually understand the descriptions of methodology and the findings for experimental research that uses Bayesian analyses, and to follow debates about conflicting conclusions from research data. In addition, some potentially controversial claims and practices with Bayesian methods are described, as well as recommendations for methodology for confirmatory experiments. References are not provided for concepts that are commonly described in writings on Bayesian methods.

The discussion here focuses on evaluating the evidence for an ESP or psi experimental effect using a binomial analysis, as is common in parapsychology. Bayesian methods can also be used for other types of analyses. The basic principles discussed here also apply for other analyses.

When discussing current limitations, uncertainties, or debates about a statistical topic, I sometimes offer my opinion about the optimal strategy for handling the matter. Some of these opinions are prefaced with qualifiers such as "in my opinion" or "my perspective is." These qualifiers are intended to indicate that a detailed technical discussion of the topic is beyond the purposes of the present article, and that others may have differing opinions.

Is Probability a Condition of the Physical World or a Condition of a Human Mind?

Bayesian and classical analyses are based on different philosophical perspectives about the nature of probability. Consider the case of a colleague who goes into a separate room and flips a coin. After the coin has been flipped, the colleague knows the outcome, but a person in the other room does not.

Objective Probability

One perspective is that after the coin has been flipped there is no uncertainty about the outcome. It is what it is. If the coin came up heads, the probability that it is heads is one, and the probability that it is tails is zero. The fact that a person in another room does not know the state of the coin is irrelevant. Probability in this case is objectively based on the state of the physical world. It is not an accurate representation to describe the state of the coin as being uncertain after the state has been physically determined.

Classical hypothesis testing is based on this philosophy of probability. A scientific hypothesis such as "do some people have psychic abilities" is a question about the existing state of the world. The world is what it is, and the fact that a particular person is uncertain about the truth of a hypothesis does not affect the existing state of the world. Variation and probability pertain to the outcomes of future experiments and observations, not to the properties of an existing state of the world. This perspective on probability is also called the frequentist interpretation because it assumes probability is based on the frequency of occurrence of an outcome when the random event or observation is repeated many times.

The logic for statistical analysis is to determine the probability for the outcome of an experiment given that a certain state of the world exists. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.