A Dirty Dozen: Twelve P-Value Misconceptions

Last modified: November 8, 2018

In 1926 the statistician and geneticist R.A. Fisher wrote down the following words:

Personally, the writer prefers to set a low standard of significance at the 5 percent point… A scientific fact should be regarded as experimentally established only if a properly designed experiment rarely fails to give this level of significance.

This quote shows that Fisher, who first introduced the p-value as a research tool, had a very limited conception of its operational value. For Fisher the word significant merely referred to ‘something worthy of notice’ and every p-value less than .05 was simply an encouragement to repeat the experiment.

How much different are things today? According to Steven Goodman the introduction of the “hypothesis testing” has made the p-value story incomparably more complex. In this article he discusses twelve misconceptions on p-values, which he believes are all rooted in the ‘unnatural’ union between p-values and our current system of testing. It brings Goodman to the conclusion that we must open our eyes for alternative methodologies, such as the Bayes’ factor.


Title: A Dirty Dozen: Twelve P-Value Misconceptions
Author: Goodman S
doi: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2008.04.003 (2008)

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