Definition Null hypothesis

A null hypothesis is what we call an assumption, the statement of which can be statistically verified. Often, a null hypothesis cannot be verified, but can only be falsified. This means, that a null hypothesis is true until its falseness can be demonstrated.

An example of a historical statistical null hypothesis was published by Malthus, in his theory of population from the 1798 book 'Essay on the Principle of Population'. In his essay, Malthus established the hypothesis that food production would not be able to keep up with the population growth of the earth. His reasoning was based on the agricultural performance contrasting the abrupt population growth of the time. Based on the (empirical) experience of countless famines in Europe during the 19th century, Malthus' hypothesis was regarded as correct. During the course of the 20th century, though, the null hypothesis was refuted. In theory, our modern day industrial agriculture is able to feed nine million people, according to FAO. The fact that it tragically fails to achieve this has other reasons than those stated in Malthus' theory. 

Please note that the definitions in our statistics encyclopedia are simplified explanations of terms. Our goal is to make the definitions accessible for a broad audience; thus it is possible that some definitions do not adhere entirely to scientific standards.

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