Statistical (Inferential) Testing

We have all heard the phrase ‘statistical tests’ – for example in a newspaper report that claims ‘statistical tests show that women are better at reading maps than men’. If we wanted to know if women are better at reading maps than men we could not possibly test all the men and all the women in the world, so we just test a small group of men and a small group of women. If we find the sample of women are indeed better with maps than the sample of men, then we infer that the same is true for all men and all women. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that because we can only make such inferences using statistical (or inferential) tests. All statistical tests though are based on the idea of probability. So, before we start to look at the different statistical tests, we need to understand the role that probability plays in statistical testing as no test to guarantee human behaviour 100%.