### Type I and II errors

There are two kinds of errors that can be made in significance testing: (1) a true null hypothesis can be incorrectly rejected and (2) a false null hypothesis can fail to be rejected. The former error is called a Type I error and the latter error is called a Type II error. These two types of errors are defined in the table. The probability of a Type I error is designated by the Greek letter alpha (a) and is called the Type I error rate; the probability of a Type II error (the Type II error rate) is designated by the Greek letter beta (ß) . A Type II error is only an error in the sense that an opportunity to reject the null hypothesis correctly was lost. It is not an error in the sense that an incorrect conclusion was drawn since no conclusion is drawn when the null hypothesis is not rejected.

A Type I error, on the other hand, is an error in every sense of the word. A conclusion is drawn that the null hypothesis is false when, in fact, it is true. Therefore, Type I errors are generally considered more serious than Type II errors. The probability of a Type I error (a) is called the significance level and is set by the experimenter. There is a tradeoff between Type I and Type II errors. The more an experimenter protects him or herself against Type I errors by choosing a low level, the greater the chance of a Type II error. Requiring very strong evidence to reject the null hypothesis makes it very unlikely that a true null hypothesis will be rejected. However, it increases the chance that a false null hypothesis will not be rejected, thus lowering power. The Type I error rate is almost always set at .05 or at .01, the latter being more conservative since it requires stronger evidence to reject the null hypothesis at the .01 level then at the .05 level.

### Power

Power is the probability of correctly rejecting a false null hypothesis. Power is therefore defined as: 1 - b where b is the Type II error probability. If the power of an experiment is low, then there is a good chance that the experiment will be inconclusive. That is why it is so important to consider power in the design of experiments. There are methods for estimating the power of an experiment before the experiment is conducted. If the power is too low, then the experiment can be redesigned by changing one of the factors that determine power.

Consider a hypothetical experiment designed to test whether rats brought up in an enriched environment can learn mazes faster than rats brought up in the typical laboratory environment (the control condition). Two groups of 12 rats each are tested. Although the experimenter does not know it, the population mean number of trials it takes to learn the maze is 20 for the enriched condition and 32 for the control condition. The null hypothesis that the enriched environment makes no difference is therefore false.

The question is, "What is the probability that the experimenter is going to be able to demonstrate that the null hypothesis is false by rejecting it at the .05 level?" This is the same thing as asking "What is the power of the test?" Before the power of the test can be determined, the standard deviation (s) must be known. If s = 10 then the power of the significance test is .82. This means that there is a .82 probability that the experimenter will be able to reject the null hypothesis. Since power = .82, b = 1-.82 = .18.

It is important to keep in mind that power is not about whether or not the null hypothesis is true (It is assumed to be false). It is the probability the data gathered in an experiment will be sufficient to reject the null hypothesis. The experimenter does not know that the null hypothesis is false. The experimenter asks the question: If the null hypothesis is false with specified population means and standard deviation, what is the probability that the data from the experiment will be sufficient to reject the null hypothesis?

If the experimenter discovers that the probability of rejecting the null hypothesis is low (power is low) even if the null hypothesis is false to the degree expected (or hoped for), then it is likely that the experiment should be redesigned. Otherwise, considerable time and expense will go into a project that has a small chance of being conclusive even if the theoretical ideas behind it are correct.