Week 11 Weekly Blog: Is it possible to prove a research hypothesis?

In studying psychology in first year it was drilled into our heads over and over again that we could never prove a hypothesis in psychology as there will always most likely being an exception so finding that one hypothesis true in your sample doesn’t mean the population will all act the same as the sample. In physics you can push a pen one hundred times of a table and you will know for a certain that it will fall due to the thanks of gravity and stay on the ground, gravity is a fact that has become a part of our lives. However if you push a hundred humans off of a table they won’t act the exact same and some may choose to practice Newton’s third law of every action having an opposite reaction mostly with a fist to the face.

Mike Tyson didn’t like me much after I pushed him off the table.

This is always a depressing factor for psychologists to never really having any proof that any experiment they do will occur in the population and so can never be a fact but what they can do is choose to disprove a hypothesis. This will give some sort of satisfaction to the researcher when they find many exceptions to the hypothesis. The null hypothesis is nifty in how it acts and gives people plenty of chance to replicate the experiment to see if their results match or don’t.

So to round it off nicely, instead of trying to prove that something will happen just say that it won’t happen and that way you can feel smug when it hasn’t. On that note I will just be taking my shorts and flip flops to my vacation to hell as I have research to disprove that hell is going to freeze over.

Damn it to hell, the brochure said it would be warm.

Remember you don’t have to be hearing voices in your head to read this blog… but it helps.


About itsafreudianslip

Welcome to Psychotherapy 101, if you don't leave this session feeling completely satisfied then I suggest you take three a day of the wit and sarcasm pills and also learn to look on the bright side of life, the sun is usually a good place to start for that.
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11 Responses to Week 11 Weekly Blog: Is it possible to prove a research hypothesis?

  1. psud78 says:

    Although I found your blog thoroughly entertaining, I do have to disagree with you on one point!!! Yes, everyone wants the glory of finding something new, and getting the accolade for something, however saying that something ‘won’t happen’ in order to feel smug when it hasn’t, will not work! A reason for this is that when conducting a research, you have to draw up a null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis!? The null hypothesis always states that something doesn’t happen i.e. that there is no relationship between variables etc. so there is no easy way of getting recognition in psychology!!! The only way is to significantly disprove a null hypothesis!

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  3. psuc41 says:

    I agree, you can NEVER prove a research hypothesi…it has been drummed into our heads from the first lecture that there is no such word as ‘prove’ in Psychology! It proved to be quite hard not mentioning the word ‘prove’ in assignments! But looking into research, I have learnt that there is definitely no way of proving a research hypothesis. You can test it over and over, still get the same results, but still cannot PROVE it! A hypothesis is only a prediction based on a model, it is simply a way of describing how you think something might work. A good hypothesis must be readily proved false, but a properly formed hypothesis can never be completely proven true. How frustrating is this for researchers, after all the work and effort gone into conducting the experiment, analysing the data, writing the report, but still they cannot PROVE it! So, yes, a research hypothesis can never be proved!

    You better take a snowsuit with you….enjoy your vacation!!

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  5. nat1990psych says:

    I completely agree that you can never prove a research hypothesis. To quote Charles Darwin “”no amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong”, thus clearly demonstrating the notion that one can never prove a theory. However, it is also important to add that it is not just in the subject of psychology that this is the case; all scientific disciplines are constantly having theories altered or disproved in favour of evidence supporting new ideas. Although, as you rightly said, this can be disheartening to scientists, the fact of the matter is that science is an ongoing cycle of change in order to generate the best possible explanations for phenomena. In this sense, science is exciting and varied and allows us to create a better world for ourselves therefore, scientists should not be disheartened by this fact, they should embrace it.

    In order to add weight to your argument that a research hypothesis can never be proven to be true, research supporting this statement could have been included. A good example is the behaviourist explanation for language aquisition in infancy, which has been falsified by studies investigating cognitive adaptions for language aquisition (Crain & Lillo-Martin, 1999). The falsification of this theory demonstrates the continual process of scientific research, in terms of adapting and falsifying current theories when new evidence is presented.

    Another component that you could have added to add weight to your blog could have been regarding the fact that, although one can never prove a research hypothesis, all efforts should be made to ensure that the presented findings have the strongest amount of supporting evidence available. The use of statistical procedures ensure that findings are supported by the best possible evidence, such as p values, which demonstrate that if findings are deemed significant, there should be a p value of <.05 at the very least. This means that there is a less than 5% chance that the findings are due to chance. This is crucial as it means that journals, other researchers, and the general public, can hold the belief that although the research can never be proven, the likelihood of the findings being merely down to chance is small. Furthermore, with this in mind, researchers can further examine the hypothesis which will add weight to the theory or disprove it in order to find the best possible explanation at that point in time for the phenomenon.

    Overall, a good blog with the clear argument that one can never prove a research hypothesis presented.


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  7. notwilliam says:

    Whilst we can’t definitively prove any hypothesis will occur naturally within a population, we can show that certain people, when put under certain, not neccesarily naturally occuring situations, certain behaviours can occur, which we can use to further our understanding of human nature, so attempting to show that things can happen is still a worthwile venture.

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  9. psucd2 says:

    Even the theory of gravity can be disproved if another theory comes along which disproves it, and provides a better explanation. The point of the null hypothesis is that it can be tested and be proved or disproved therefore it’s useful for providing evidence for the theory/hypothesis. (Flick, R. W, 1996) So while we can never prove a hypothesis we can provide enough evidence for it so that it becomes a widely accepted theory (e.g the theory of gravity). It’s better to be open minded to new advances rather then closed off thinking that a particular theory must be correct, it’s a positive.

    Reference: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/met/1/4/379/

  10. uzumakiabby says:

    Very interesting and entertaining blog. I have to say that the issue of the null hypothesis has always bugged me because it has always seemed pointless to try and “disprove” your own theories when obviously you believe them to be correct. However, when you consider all the different ways in which you can disprove the null hypothesis it makes sense. The null hypothesis, according to this handy website http://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/null_hypothesis.asp, is basically saying that literally nothing is going to be found. However, if something is found – the null hypothesis is completely thrown out the window. It doesn’t necessarily need to be what you thought was going to be found in order for an effect to be there – that’s why the null is so handy. Think about it; if you could only report an effect being there if it is exactly what you predict, not much would get found out and published!

    So yeah, nice blog and i enjoyed reading it. I look forward to your next one!

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