Bayesian hypothesis testing – Probably Overthinking It


I’ve combined emotions about Bayesian speculation testing. On the optimistic facet, it’s higher than null-hypothesis significance testing (NHST).

And it’s most likely obligatory as an onboarding instrument: Speculation testing is likely one of the first issues future Bayesians ask about; we have to have a solution.

On the unfavorable facet, Bayesian speculation testing is commonly unsatisfying as a result of the query it solutions isn’t probably the most helpful query to ask.

To elucidate, I’ll use an instance from Bite Size Bayes, which is a sequence of Jupyter notebooks I’m writing to introduce Bayesian statistics.

In Notebook 7, I current the next downside from David MacKay’s ebook, Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms:

“A statistical assertion appeared in The Guardian on Friday January 4, 2002:

“When spun on edge 250 instances, a Belgian one-euro coin got here up heads 140 instances and tails 110. ‘It appears to be like very suspicious to me’, mentioned Barry Blight, a statistics lecturer on the London Faculty of Economics. ‘If the coin had been unbiased the possibility of getting a outcome as excessive as that might be lower than 7%’.”

“However [asks MacKay] do these knowledge give proof that the coin is biased reasonably than honest?”

I begin by formulating the query as an estimation downside. That’s, I assume that the coin has some chance, x, of touchdown heads, and I take advantage of the information to estimate it.

If we assume that the prior distribution is uniform, which implies that any worth between zero and 1 is equally seemingly, the posterior distribution appears to be like like this:

Posterior distribution of x, which is the chance of heads, given a uniform prior.

This distribution represents all the things we find out about x given the prior and the information. And we are able to use it to reply no matter questions we have now in regards to the coin.

So let’s reply MacKay’s query: “Do these knowledge give proof that the coin is biased reasonably than honest?”

The query implies that we must always contemplate two hypotheses:

  • The coin is honest.
  • The coin is biased.

In classical speculation testing, we’d outline a null speculation, select a check statistic, and compute a p-value. That’s what the statistician quoted in The Guardian did. His null speculation is that the coin is honest. The check statistic is the distinction between the noticed variety of heads (140) and the anticipated quantity below the null speculation (125). The p-value he computes is 7%, which he describes as “suspicious”.

In Bayesian speculation testing, we select prior chances that signify our diploma of perception within the two hypotheses. Then we compute the probability of the information below every speculation. The main points are in Bite Size Bayes Notebook 12.

On this instance the reply is determined by how we outline the speculation that the coin is biased:

  • If you realize forward of time that the chance of heads is precisely 56%, which is the fraction of heads within the dataset, the information are proof in favor of the biased speculation.
  • If you happen to don’t know the chance of heads, however you assume any worth between zero and 1 is equally seemingly, the information are proof in favor of the honest speculation.
  • And when you have information about biased cash that informs your beliefs about x, the information may help the honest or biased speculation.

Within the pocket book I summarize these outcomes utilizing Bayes elements, which quantify the power of the proof. If you happen to insist on doing Bayesian speculation testing, reporting a Bayes issue might be a good selection.

However usually I feel you’ll discover that the reply isn’t very satisfying. As on this instance, the reply is commonly “it relies upon”. However even when the hypotheses are properly outlined, a Bayes issue is usually much less helpful than a posterior distribution, as a result of it incorporates much less data.

The posterior distribution incorporates all the things we all know in regards to the coin; we are able to use it to compute no matter abstract statistics we like and to tell decision-making processes. We’ll see examples within the subsequent two notebooks.


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