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P Values: What They Are and What They Are Not

Mark J. Schervish
The American Statistician
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 203-206
DOI: 10.2307/2684655
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2684655
Page Count: 4
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P Values: What They Are and What They Are Not
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Abstract

P values (or significance probabilities) have been used in place of hypothesis tests as a means of giving more information about the relationship between the data and the hypothesis than does a simple reject/do not reject decision. Virtually all elementary statistics texts cover the calculation of P values for one-sided and point-null hypotheses concerning the mean of a sample from a normal distribution. There is, however, a third case that is intermediate to the one-sided and point-null cases, namely the interval hypothesis, that receives no coverage in elementary texts. We show that P values are continuous functions of the hypothesis for fixed data. This allows a unified treatment of all three types of hypothesis testing problems. It also leads to the discovery that a common informal use of P values as measures of support or evidence for hypotheses has serious logical flaws.

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