Alternative hypothesis  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In statistical hypothesis testing, the alternative hypothesis (or maintained hypothesis or research hypothesis) and the null hypothesis are the two rival hypotheses which are compared by a statistical hypothesis test. An example might be where water quality in a stream has been observed over many years and a test is made of the null hypothesis that there is no change in quality between the first and second halves of the data against the alternative hypothesis that the quality is poorer in the second half of the record.

The concept of an alternative hypothesis in testing was devised by Jerzy Neyman and Egon Pearson, and it is used in the Neyman–Pearson lemma. It forms a major component in modern statistical hypothesis testing. However it was not part of Ronald Fisher's formulation of statistical hypothesis testing, and he violently opposed its use.<ref name="Cohen">Cohen, J. 1990. Things I have learned (so far). American Psychologist 45: 1304–1312.</ref> In Fisher's approach to testing, the central idea is to assess whether the observed dataset could have resulted from chance if the null hypothesis were assumed to hold, notionally without preconceptions about what other model might hold. Modern statistical hypothesis testing accommodates this type of test since the alternative hypothesis can be just the negation of the null hypothesis.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alternative hypothesis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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