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Testing Hypotheses with the Binomial Probability Distribution

A Binomial Experiment:

consists of n identical trials.

each trial results in one of two outcomes, a success or a failure.

the probabilities of success ( p ) and of failure ( q = 1 - p ) are constant across


trials.

trials are independent, not affected by the outcome of other trials.

Y is the number of successes in n trials.

P Y y

n!
p y q ny
y! (n - y)!

P(Y = y) may also be determined by reference to a binomial table.

The binomial distribution has:


o

np

2
o npq

Testing Hypotheses

State null and alternative hypotheses


o the null hypothesis specifies the value of some population parameter. For
example, p = .5 (two-tailed, nondirectional; this coin is fair) or p < .25
(one-tailed; directional; student is merely guessing on 4-choice multiple
choice test).
o the alternative hypothesis, which the researcher often wants to support, is
the antithetical complement of the null. For example, p .5 (two-tailed,
the coin is biased) or p > .25 (one-tailed, the student is not merely
guessing, e knows tested material).

Specify the sampling (probability) distribution and the test statistic (Y). Example:
the binomial distribution describes the probability that a single sample of n trials
would result in (Y = y) successes (if assumptions of binomial are true).

Set alpha at a level determined by how great a risk of a Type I error (falsely
rejecting a true null) you are willing to take. Traditional values of alpha are .05
and .01.

Copyright 2014, Karl L. Wuensch - All rights reserved.

Binomial.docx

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Specify a decision rule:


o From the sampling distribution associated with a true null hypothesis, map
out the rejection region, the values of the sample test statistic that would
be obtained with a probability of or less.
o With directional hypotheses, the rejection region will be in one tail; with
nondirectional hypotheses, in two tails ( / 2 in each tail)
o if the test statistic falls in the rejection area, reject the null and assert the
alternative hypothesis. If not, fail to reject the null.
o The boundary between rejection and nonrejection areas is sometimes
called the critical value of the test statistic.

Collect sample data, compute test statistic, and make decision.

An alternative and preferable decision rule is:


o From the sample data, compute P, the significance level, the probability
that one would obtain a sample result as or more contradictory to the null
hypothesis than that actually observed.
o Examples for a one-tailed test:

H: p < .5; H1: p > .5; n = 25, Y=18;

P(Y > 18 | n = 25, p = .5) = .021

APA-style summary: Mothers were allowed to smell two


articles of infants clothing and asked to pick the one which
was their infants. They were successful in doing so 72% of
the time, significantly more often than would be expected by
chance, exact binomial p (one-tailed) = .021.

H: p > .5; H1: p < .5; n = 25, Y = 18;

P(Y 18 | n = 25, p = .5) = .993 (note that the direction of the


P(Y ) matches that of H1)

o For a two-tailed test

Compute a one-tailed P and double it.

H: p = .5; H1: p .5; n = 25, Y = 18;


2P(Y 18) = 2(.022) = .044

H: p = .5; H : p .5; n = 25, Y = 7;


1
2P(Y 7) = 2(.022) = .044 (the direction of the P(Y ) is that which
gives the smaller p value; P(Y 7) = .993 and 2(.993) = 1.986,
obviously not a possible p.

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If p alpha, reject H, otherwise fail to reject the null.

Reporting an exact p value gives the reader more information than


does merely reporting rejection or no rejection of the null: p = .06
and p = .95 might both lead to no rejection, but the former
nonetheless casts doubt on the null, the latter certainly does not.
Likewise, p = .04 and p = .001 may lead to the same conclusion,
but the latter would indicate greater confidence.

Normal Approximation of a Binomial Probability

If you do not have access to a computer or table to obtain a binomial probability


and it just would be too hard to do it by hand, you may be able to approximate it
using the normal curve.

If 2 falls within 0 to n, then the binomial approximation should be good. For


example, we want to find P(Y 18 | n = 25, p = .5).
25(.5) 2 25(.5)(. 5) 12.5 2(2.5) 7.5 17.5
, which is contained within 0
25, so the normal approximation should be good.

17.5 12.5
2
2.5
We compute
. Note that I reduced the value for the number of
successes from 18 to 17.5. This is called the "correction for continuity." The
reasoning behind it goes something like this: We are using a continuous
distribution to approximate a discrete probability. Accordingly, we should think of
'18' as being '17.5 to 18.5.' Since we want the probability of getting 18 or more
successes, we find the z-score for getting 17.5 or more -- that way we include all
of '18' in the obtained probability. If we wanted to estimate the probability of
getting 18 or fewer successes, we would use '18.5,' again, to inlcude all of '18' in
the obtained probability. On a practical note, the approximated probability will be
closer to the exact binomial probability if the we use the correction for continuity
than it would be if we did not use the correction.
z

We then use the normal curve table to get the probability from the z-score. For
our z-score of 2.00, the probability is .0228.

The Binomial Sign Test

With matched pairs data we may simply compute, for each pair, whether the
difference score is positive or negative and then test the null hypothesis that in
the population 50% of the difference scores are positive.

For example, suppose we have pre and post blood pressure scores for each of
ten subjects given an experimental drug. Our null hypothesis is that the drug has
no effect on blood pressure.

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We test 11 subjects. For 9 subjects pressure is lower after taking the drug, for 1
it is higher and for 1 it is unchanged.

Our test statistic is the larger of n+ (the number of positive difference scores) and
n (the number of negative difference scores). Unless there are many difference
scores of zero, we usually discard data from subjects with difference scores of
zero (an alternative procedure would be to count zero difference scores as being
included with the smaller of n+ and n).

Following the usual procedure, our test statistic would be n+ = 9, with n = 10.
The exact two-tailed p value is 2P(Y 9 n = 10, p = .5) = .022, sufficiently low
to reject the null hypothesis at the customary .05 level of significance.

Our APA-style summary statement might read like this: An exact binomial sign
test indicated that the drug significantly lowered blood pressure, 9 of 10 patients
having post-treatment pressure lower than their pre-treatment pressure, p = .
022. Were we to use a normal approximation rather than an exact test, we
would include the value of z in our summary statement.

Links

See this published example of a binomial sign test


Estimating Binomial Proportions
A little binomial humor

Copyright 2014, Karl L. Wuensch - All rights reserved.