36 Examples of a Hypothesis
John Spacey, February 24, 2021
A hypothesis is a reasoned explanation that is not yet confirmed by the scientific method. It is standard practice to formulate a hypothesis as a starting point of research. This is then refuted, confirmed or reframed based on evidence. The following are illustrative examples of a hypothesis. Plants will grow faster in blue light as compared to red or green light.Regular watering can desalinate soil in a pot.Local air quality is better on weekends and holidays.Tennis balls bounce higher when they are cold.There is significant variation in the average amount of pollen in regular versus organic honey products purchased from a local supermarket. A solution of toothpaste and water will disinfect a surface.Water isn't flammable.The color of paint in classrooms doesn't influence student grades.Snow tires will improve fuel efficiency in January when roads are cold and potentially snowy or icy.Seawater will evaporate more slowly than distilled water.Listening to pop music increases performance for rote learning tasks.Inspirational stories can increase the self-reported happiness of people.Consumers prefer green pencils to yellow or brown. A novice chess player will improve more with 4 hours of practice games than with 4 hours of theory and study.The lead content of ceramic cups will vary by color.Batteries last longer at room temperature as compared to subzero temperatures.For adults, reaction time decreases with age.Carrots grown organically in a home garden will have more vitamin A than those purchased at a local supermarket.Dogs can see the color blue but not red.People will prefer the brand of cola with the highest sugar content. Watching superhero movies makes people more confident in their own physical strength.Classrooms are noisier when the teacher has left the room.Fonts influence essay grading.Question framing influences opinion polls.Computers have higher performance in a cold room.People can't differentiate between the taste of distilled water, mineral water and tap water.Bamboo has a higher strength to weight ratio than steel.People feel that time moves slower when they study as compared to playing video games.On average, non-fiction books will have more pages than fiction.Mindcraft zombies are capable of spatial reasoning.Paper can be made waterproof with beeswax. Consumption of sugary beverages has a negative influence on reading comprehension scores.People have greater self-reported happiness on sunny days as compared to rainy days.Longer morning commutes cause workers to report lower job satisfaction.Coders working from home will produce more lines of code per day with fewer defects per line.Shrimps in an aquarium do not demonstrate social behavior.
FalsifiabilityTraditionally, a hypothesis has to be falsifiable to conform to the scientific method. Falsifiability means that a test exists that can prove the hypothesis wrong. Falsifiability places the burden of proof on those who make claims. For example, "Aliens exist" isn't falsifiable because disproving this statement would require you to search every inch of the entire universe for life. This can be easily converted to the falsifiable "Aliens don't exist" whereby you can disprove the hypothesis by discovering a single alien.It should be noted that the falsifiability criterion is the subject of much debate, particularly in fields such as physics where theories are often constructed with logic such as induction. Likewise, several well known concepts that people think of as solid science are arguably not falsifiable. For example, "survival of the fittest" isn't particularly falsifiable as it's difficult to prove that some current species is less "fit" that than all other species that have gone extinct† .
PointersThe examples above include science, social sciences, engineering and other disciplines such as business. There is no need to outline the details of an experiment in the hypothesis but it is necessary to be specific to what you actually intend to prove or disprove without being overly broad.It is tempting to frame a hypothesis as a question but it must be declarative as in the examples above. It feels strategy to make a declaration when you don't know if it is true. However, this is the point of a hypothesis to bravely state something that might be true or might be false.It is invalid to change your initial hypothesis in the midst of research as this is an important artifact that indicates where results were expected based on rational thought or unexpected and possibly a random correlation.Research without a hypothesis such as trying to find a pattern in data is likely to confuse correlation and causation. A common type of research fraud, is to automatically look for patterns in datasets and then fit a hypothesis to this pattern. This is known as data dredging.
NotesDarwin defined natural selection as "better designed for an immediate, local environment" if fit is defined in this way, survival of the fittest is unfalsifiable††. However, modern biology tends to define fitness in terms of reproductive success. In this case, survival of the fittest can be accused of circular reasoning along the lines of "those with the most reproductive success have the most reproductive success."
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Footnotes† Hull, David. "What philosophy of biology is not." Journal of the History of Biology 2.1 (1969): 241-268.††Stephen Jay Gould, Darwin's Untimely Burial", 1976; from Philosophy of Biology:An Anthology, Alex Rosenberg, May 2009, pp. 99–102.
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