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Not Null Enough: Pseudo-Null Hypotheses in Community Ecology and Comparative Psychology

Bausman, William / C and Halina, Marta (2018) Not Null Enough: Pseudo-Null Hypotheses in Community Ecology and Comparative Psychology. [Preprint]

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Abstract

We evaluate a common reasoning strategy used in community ecology and comparative psychology for selecting between competing hypotheses. This strategy labels one hypothesis as a “null” on the grounds of its simplicity and epistemically privileges it as accepted until rejected. We argue that this strategy is unjustified. The asymmetrical treatment of statistical null hypotheses is justified through the experimental and mathematical contexts in which they are used, but these contexts are missing in the case of the “pseudo-null hypotheses” found in our case studies. Moreover, statistical nulls are often not epistemically privileged in practice over their alternatives because failing to reject the null is usually a negative result about the alternative, experimental hypothesis. Scientists should eschew the appeal to pseudo-nulls. It is a rhetorical strategy that glosses over a commitment to valuing simplicity over other epistemic virtues in the name of good scientific and statistical methodology.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bausman, William / Cwcbausman@gmail.com0000-0002-7445-8722
Halina, Martamh801@cam.ac.uk
Keywords: Null hypothesis; Community Ecology; Neutral Theory; Comparative Psychology; Mindreading Hypohesis; Comparative Psychology; Reasoning Strategy
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Ecology/Conservation
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Depositing User: Dr. William Bausman
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2018 16:27
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2018 16:27
Item ID: 14954
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Ecology/Conservation
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
General Issues > Rhetoric of Science
Date: 2018
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14954

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