Bayesian alternatives for common null-hypothesis significance tests in psychiatry: a non-technical guide using JASP

BMC Psychiatry. 2018 Jun 7;18(1):178. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1761-4.


Background: Despite its popularity as an inferential framework, classical null hypothesis significance testing (NHST) has several restrictions. Bayesian analysis can be used to complement NHST, however, this approach has been underutilized largely due to a dearth of accessible software options. JASP is a recently developed open-source statistical package that facilitates both Bayesian and NHST analysis using a graphical interface. This article provides an applied introduction to Bayesian inference with Bayes factors using JASP.

Methods: We use JASP to compare and contrast Bayesian alternatives for several common classical null hypothesis significance tests: correlations, frequency distributions, t-tests, ANCOVAs, and ANOVAs. These examples are also used to illustrate the strengths and limitations of both NHST and Bayesian hypothesis testing.

Results: A comparison of NHST and Bayesian inferential frameworks demonstrates that Bayes factors can complement p-values by providing additional information for hypothesis testing. Namely, Bayes factors can quantify relative evidence for both alternative and null hypotheses. Moreover, the magnitude of this evidence can be presented as an easy-to-interpret odds ratio.

Conclusions: While Bayesian analysis is by no means a new method, this type of statistical inference has been largely inaccessible for most psychiatry researchers. JASP provides a straightforward means of performing reproducible Bayesian hypothesis tests using a graphical "point and click" environment that will be familiar to researchers conversant with other graphical statistical packages, such as SPSS.

Keywords: Bayesian analysis; Null hypothesis significance testing; Research methods; Software; Statistics; p-values.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem*
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design / statistics & numerical data*
  • Software