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A hypothesis (, from Greek ὑποτιθέναι – hypotithenai meaning "to put under" or "to suppose," plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it. Scientists generally base scientific hypotheses on previous observations that cannot satisfactorily be explained with the available scientific theories. Even though the words "hypothesis" and "theory" are often used synonymously, a scientific hypothesis is not the same as a scientific theory. A working hypothesis is a provisionally accepted hypothesis proposed for further research.
A different meaning of the term hypothesis is used in formal logic, to denote the antecedent of a proposition; thus in the proposition "If P, then Q", P denotes the hypothesis (or antecedent); Q can be called a consequent. P is the assumption in a (possibly counterfactual) What If question.
The adjective hypothetical, meaning "having the nature of a hypothesis", or "being assumed to exist as an immediate consequence of a hypothesis", can refer to any of these meanings of the term "hypothesis".
In common usage in the 21st century, a hypothesis refers to a provisional idea whose merit requires evaluation. For proper evaluation, the framer of a hypothesis needs to define specifics in operational terms. A hypothesis requires more work by the researcher in order to either confirm or disprove it. In due course, a confirmed hypothesis may become part of a theory or occasionally may grow to become a theory itself. Normally, scientific hypotheses have the form of a mathematical model. Sometimes, but not always, one can also formulate them as existential statements, stating that some particular instance of the phenomenon under examination has some characteristic and causal explanations, which have the general form of universal statements, stating that every instance of the phenomenon has a particular characteristic.
Any useful hypothesis will enable predictions by reasoning (including deductive reasoning). It might predict the outcome of an experiment in a laboratory setting or the observation of a phenomenon in nature. The prediction may also invoke statistics and only talk about probabilities. Karl Popper, following others, has argued that a hypothesis must be falsifiable, and that one cannot regard a proposition or theory as scientific if it does not admit the possibility of being shown false. Other philosophers of science have rejected the criterion of falsifiability or supplemented it with other criteria, such as verifiability (e.g., verificationism) or coherence (e.g., confirmation holism). The scientific method involves experimentation on the basis of hypotheses to answer questions and explore observations.
In framing a hypothesis, the investigator must not currently know the outcome of a test or that it remains reasonably under continuing investigation. Only in such cases does the experiment, test or study potentially increase the probability of showing the truth of a hypothesis. If the researcher already knows the outcome, it counts as a "consequence" — and the researcher should have already considered this while formulating the hypothesis. If one cannot assess the predictions by observation or by experience, the hypothesis classes as not yet useful, and must wait for others who might come afterward to make possible the needed observations. For example, a new technology or theory might make the necessary experiments feasible.
People refer to a trial solution to a problem as a hypothesis, often called an "educated guess" because it provides a suggested solution based on the evidence. Experimenters may test and reject several hypotheses before solving the problem.
According to Schick and Vaughn, researchers weighing up alternative hypotheses may take into consideration:
- Testability (compare falsifiability as discussed above)
- Parsimony (as in the application of "Occam's razor", discouraging the postulation of excessive numbers of entities)
- Scope – the apparent application of the hypothesis to multiple cases of phenomena
- Fruitfulness – the prospect that a hypothesis may explain further phenomena in the future
- Conservatism – the degree of "fit" with existing recognized knowledge-systems.
Types of hypotheses
- Main article: Working hypothesis
A 'working hypothesis' is a hypothesis that is provisionally accepted as a basis for further research in the hope that a tenable theory will be produced, even if the hypothesis ultimately fails. Like all hypotheses, a working hypothesis is constructed as a statement of expectations, which can be linked to the exploratory research purpose in empirical investigation and are often used as a conceptual framework in qualitative research.
In recent years, philosophers of science have tried to integrate the various approaches to evaluating hypotheses, and the scientific method in general, to form a more complete system that integrates the individual concerns of each approach. Notably, Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, Karl Popper's colleague and student, respectively, have produced novel attempts at such a synthesis.
- Main article: Alternative hypothesis
Hypotheses, concepts and measurement
Concepts, as abstract units of meaning, play a key role in the development and testing of hypotheses. Concepts are the basic components of hypotheses. Most formal hypotheses connect concepts by specifying the expected relationships between concepts. For example, a simple relational hypothesis such as "education increases income" specifies a positive relationship between the concepts "education" and "income." This abstract or conceptual hypothesis cannot be tested. First, it must be operationalized or situated in the real world by rules of interpretation. Consider again the simple hypothesis "Education increases Income." To test the hypothesis the abstract meaning of education and income must be derived or operationalized. The concepts should be measured. Education could be measured by "years of school completed" or "highest degree completed" etc. Income could be measured by "hourly rate of pay" or "yearly salary" etc.
When a set of hypotheses are grouped together they become a type of conceptual framework. When a conceptual framework is complex and incorporates causality or explanation it is generally referred to as a theory. According to noted philosopher of science Carl Gustav Hempel "An adequate empirical interpretation turns a theoretical system into a testable theory: The hypothesis whose constituent terms have been interpreted become capable of test by reference to observable phenomena. Frequently the interpreted hypothesis will be derivative hypotheses of the theory; but their confirmation or disconfirmation by empirical data will then immediately strengthen or weaken also the primitive hypotheses from which they were derived."
Hempel provides a useful metaphor that describes the relationship between a conceptual framework and the framework as it is observed and perhaps tested (interpreted framework). "The whole system floats, as it were, above the plane of observation and is anchored to it by rules of interpretation. These might be viewed as strings which are not part of the network but link certain points of the latter with specific places in the plane of observation. By virtue of those interpretative connections, the network can function as a scientific theory" Hypotheses with concepts anchored in the plane of observation are ready to be tested. In "actual scientific practice the process of framing a theoretical structure and of interpreting it are not always sharply separated, since the intended interpretation usually guides the construction of the theoretician." It is, however, "possible and indeed desirable, for the purposes of logical clarification, to separate the two steps conceptually."
Statistical hypothesis testing
- Main article: Statistical hypothesis testing
When a possible correlation or similar relation between phenomena is investigated, such as, for example, whether a proposed remedy is effective in treating a disease, that is, at least to some extent and for some patients, the hypothesis that a relation exists cannot be examined the same way one might examine a proposed new law of nature: in such an investigation a few cases in which the tested remedy shows no effect do not falsify the hypothesis. Instead, statistical tests are used to determine how likely it is that the overall effect would be observed if no real relation as hypothesized exists. If that likelihood is sufficiently small (e.g., less than 1%), the existence of a relation may be assumed. Otherwise, any observed effect may as well be due to pure chance.
In statistical hypothesis testing two hypotheses are compared, which are called the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis. The null hypothesis is the hypothesis that states that there is no relation between the phenomena whose relation is under investigation, or at least not of the form given by the alternative hypothesis. The alternative hypothesis, as the name suggests, is the alternative to the null hypothesis: it states that there is some kind of relation. The alternative hypothesis may take several forms, depending on the nature of the hypothesized relation; in particular, it can be two-sided (for example: there is some effect, in a yet unknown direction) or one-sided (the direction of the hypothesized relation, positive or negative, is fixed in advance).
Conventional significance levels for testing the hypotheses are .10, .05, and .01. Whether the null hypothesis is rejected and the alternative hypothesis is accepted, all must be determined in advance, before the observations are collected or inspected. If these criteria are determined later, when the data to be tested is already known, the test is invalid.
It is important to mention that the above procedure is actually dependent on the number of the participants (units or sample size) that is included in the study. For instance, the sample size may be too small to reject a null hypothesis and, therefore, is recommended to specify the sample size from the beginning. It is advisable to define a small, medium and large effect size for each of a number of the important statistical tests which are used to test the hypotheses.
Hypotheses of interest to psychologists
There is some confusion as to the difference between a theory and an hypothesis but this list includes a number of hypotheses of interest to psychologists
- Activation-synthesis hypothesis - in dream theory
- Aquatic ape hypothesis - in evolutionary psychology
- Beneficial acclimation hypothesis - in acclimitization
- Biophilia hypothesis - concerning the urge to affiliate with other forms of life
- Bott Hypothesis - of family life
- Sexy son hypothesis - in linguistics
- Challenge hypothesis - in the relationship between aggression and testosterone
- Chemical imbalance hypothesis of mental disorder
- Chemoaffinity hypothesis of neuronal development
- Comparator hypothesis - in motivation
- Critical period hypothesis in developmental psychology
- Delay reduction hypothesis - in classical conditioning
- Differential susceptibility hypothesis - in environmental psychology
- Defensive attribution hypothesis - in Attribution theory
- Dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia
- Drunken monkey hypothesis - of ethanol preference
- Easterlin hypothesis - of the relationship between income and fertility
- Efficient coding hypothesis - in sensory coding
- Expected utility hypothesis - in game theory
- Facial feedback hypothesis - in Emotion
- Frustration–aggression hypothesis - of scapegoating
- Generalist Genes Hypothesis - in learning difficulties
- Geschwind–Galaburda hypothesis - of lateralization of brain function
- Glutamate hypothesis of schizophrenia
- Grandmother hypothesis - in evolutionary psychology
- Hunter vs. farmer hypothesis - in evolutionary psycholgy
- Hunting hypothesis - in evolutionary psychology
- Hypothesis Theory - a learning theory
- Innateness hypothesis - in language acquisition
- Inoculation hypothesis - in persuasion
- Input hypothesis - in second-language acquisition
- Interaction hypothesis - in second language acquisition
- Interface hypothesis - second-language acquisition
- Interpersonal complementarity hypothesis - of reciprocity
- Just-world hypothesis - a cognitive bias
- Killer ape hypothesis - in evolutionary theories of aggression
- Knowledge gap hypothesis
- Language of thought hypothesis - in philosophy of mind
- Lévy flight foraging hypothesis - of animal foraging behavior
- Lexical hypothesis - in personality psychology
- Matching hypothesis - in interpersonal attraction
- Noticing hypothesis - in second language acquisition
- Ortega hypothesis - of scientific progress
- Patriarch hypothesis - in evolutionary psychology
- People accounting hypothesis - in social categorization
- Perceptual noise exclusion hypothesis - in dyslexia
- Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis - in linguistics
- Freud's seduction hypothesis
- Sexual orientation hypothesis - in gender studies
- Sexy son hypothesis - in animal mating
- Somatic marker hypothesis - in decision making
- Spearman's hypothesis - in intelligence
- Stereotype fit hypothesis - of Stereotyped attitudes
- Synaptotropic hypothesis - of neural growth
- The Astonishing Hypothesis - Francis Crick's take on consciousness
- Threshold hypothesis - in second language acquisition
- Trivers–Willard hypothesis - in evolutionary psychology
- Two-streams hypothesis - a neurophysiological account of visual processing
- Unidirectionality hypothesis - in linguistics
- Variability hypothesis - in ability
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 (1997) The ecological detective: confronting models with data, Princeton University Press. URL accessed 22 August 2011.
- ↑ Crease, Robert P. (2008) The Great Equations ISBN 978-0-393-06204-5, p.112 lists the conservation of energy as an example of accounting a constant of motion. Hypothesized by Sadi Carnot, truth demonstrated by James Prescott Joule, proven by Emmy Noether.
- ↑ "When it is not clear under which law of nature an effect or class of effect belongs, we try to fill this gap by means of a guess. Such guesses have been given the name conjectures or hypotheses.", Hans Christian Ørsted(1811) "First Introduction to General Physics" ¶18. Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, ISBN 0-691-04334-5 p.297
- ↑ "In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. ...", —Richard Feynman (1965) The Character of Physical Law p.156
- ↑ (2002) How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a New Age, Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
- ↑ Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine. Eprint via Answers.com.
- ↑ See in "hypothesis", Century Dictionary Supplement, v. 1, 1909, New York: The Century Company. Reprinted, v. 11, p. 616 (via Internet Archive) of the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, 1911.
hypothesis [...]—Working hypothesis, a hypothesis suggested or supported in some measure by features of observed facts, from which consequences may be deduced which can be tested by experiment and special observations, and which it is proposed to subject to an extended course of such investigation, with the hope that, even should the hypothesis thus be overthrown, such research may lead to a tenable theory.
- ↑ Patricia M. Shields, Hassan Tajalli (2006). Intermediate Theory: The Missing Link in Successful Student Scholarship. Journal of Public Affairs Education 12 (3): 313–334.
- ↑ Patricia M. Shields (1998). "Pragmatism As a Philosophy of Science: A Tool For Public Administration" Jay D. White Research in Public Administration, 195–225 .
- ↑ Hempel, C. G. (1952). Fundamentals of concept formation in empirical science. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, p. 36
- ↑ Hempel, C. G. (1952). Fundamentals of concept formation in empirical science. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, p. 36.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Hempel, C. G. (1952). Fundamentals of concept formation in empirical science. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, p. 33.
- ↑ Mellenbergh, G.J.(2008). Chapter 8: Research designs: Testing of research hypotheses. In H.J. Adèr & G.J. Mellenbergh (Eds.) (with contributions by D.J. Hand), Advising on Research Methods: A consultant's companion (pp. 183-209). Huizen, The Netherlands: Johannes van Kessel Publishing
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