The persistence of NHST: “Wilfully stupid”?

I recently gave a research talk to Psychology at La Trobe, my old University–although I now live an hour out of the city and rarely visit the campus. I decided to turn things around from my previous few talks: Instead of starting with Open Science then discussing the move from NHST to the new statistics, I decided to start with the NHST story.

The really weird thing is that NHST and p values have for more than half a century been subject to cogent and severe criticism, which has received hardly any considered rebuttal, and yet NHST and p values simply persist. Really weird!

Here are my Powerpoint slides for the talk:
Cumming LTU Psychology colloquium 13 Apr 17

And here’s Slide 11 with a quote from each decade to illustrate how long-standing and out-spoken the criticism of NHST has been. Yes, cherry-picked quotes, but there are truckloads more, and hardly anyone has tried to seriously answer them.

Then I quoted from psychologist Michael Oakes (1986): “Psychologists… have, for the last 40 years or so, been almost wilfully stupid. What explanations can be offered for their failure to acknowledge, at a much earlier date, the cogency of these arguments [against NHST]?”

“Wilfully stupid”!? It seems that rational argument has not persuaded researchers to change. NHST is somehow addictive. Let’s hope things are different now, in the age of Open Science.

Perhaps in addition it’s worth trying another approach–that’s why I put forward the dance of the p values, and now significance roulette, as attempts to dramatize a particularly striking weakness of p values and NHST. Will they help researchers throw away the security blanket at last?

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