Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2003 15:38:09 -0500 Peter Flom "SAS(r) Discussion" Peter Flom Re: Interpretation of Small Effect with Large N text/plain; charset=US-ASCII

Getting back to basics:

Presume a totally fair coin. Then, as N grow, the probability of getting EXACTLY N/2 heads shrinks. But the probability of getting APPROXIMATELY N/2 heads grows. The chance of getting a statistically significant result with a totally fair coin is .05 (or whatever value is chosen) regardless of N; but the difference between .5 and the proportion of heads which will give a significant result shrinks as N grows.

Thia is the basic reason why the reification of siginficance testing is a bad idea, at least in most cases. The p value tests whether these results are likely to have happened by chance, given that the null hypothesis is true (e.g., the coin is fair). But what we are usually interested in is whether it's likely that the null hypothesis is true, given these results. The two are not equivalent. We are also usually interested in effect size, not just statistical significance. If I test a diet (say) on 100,000 people, then what is interesting to people who might follow the diet is NOT whether the average weight loss is significant (it is very likely to be significant) but how large it is.

Peter

Peter L. Flom, PhD Assistant Director, Statistics and Data Analysis Core Center for Drug Use and HIV Research National Development and Research Institutes 71 W. 23rd St New York, NY 10010 (212) 845-4485 (voice) (917) 438-0894 (fax)

>>> Bill Anderson <wnilesanderson@COX.NET> 01/13/03 03:10PM >>> Actually, if a 'fair' coin is flipped 1,000,000 times, the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis is still 0.05 (or whatever alpha is used.)

We know that there are physical differences between the head and tail of a coin, and it is quite believable that no coin is perfectly fair. So if we flip a LOT of times, we figure to reject the null hypothesis of fairness. This is not due to an error in statistics; rather it is a reflection of the lack of fairness in the coin.

Probably the simplest way to handle this is using the concept of statistical equivalence. Decide in advance what amount of difference really matters, and use the null hypothesis that the difference is this big or bigger. Then larger sample sizes will get you to the truth: if the difference does not matter, then large sample sizes will reject the null hypothesis, and you will correctly conclude equivalence. It may or may not happen that at the same time you have a statistically significant difference, but the latter situation is simply unimportant.

There is a lot of journal literature on the subject of equivalence, although it is still slow to get into elementary textbooks.

Bill Anderson

----- Original Message ----- From: "Bross, Dean S" <dean.bross@HQ.MED.VA.GOV> Sent: Monday, January 13, 2003 8:14 AM Subject: Re: Interpretation of Small Effect with Large N

> Some people sum up this finding as proving what seems to be > one of the untaught laws of nature: > > All null hypotheses are false. > > I consider this to be just like one of the laws of thermodynamics. > > It is not an error in statistical methods. > > -----Original Message----- > From: Tim Berryhill [mailto:tim@AARTWOLF.COM] > Sent: Saturday, January 11, 2003 11:34 AM > To: SAS-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU > Subject: Re: Interpretation of Small Effect with Large N > > > Would someone mind expanding on this? I usually use SAS for COBOL-style > business data processing, but back when I worked reasearch I noticed that if > the sample size was large then the differences were ALWAYS statistically > significant. On the flip side, I know that if one counts heads and tails > for 1,000,000 flips of a balanced coin, the odds of getting exactly 500,000 > heads are quite low. > > Is there a mistake in choice of statistics which crops up with large sample > sizes? Is it a matter of violated assumptions which only shows up when you > have large N? > Just curious (in case I try to cure cancer), > Tim Berryhill > > "Paul Thompson" <paul@wubios.wustl.edu> wrote in message > news:3E19CB17.5070404@wubios.wustl.edu... > > Just guessing here, but I bet you have boupcoup participants, n'est pas? > > > > Many many? > > > > Thompson Bill T Contr USAFSAM/FEC wrote: > > > Can someone please explain to me or point in the right direction for > helping > > > me understand how to interpret the results of a repeated measures > analysis > > > where you have a small effect (.20) with strong power (.943). > > > > > > Thanks in advance, > > > > > > Bill > > >

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