The null hypothesis—which assumes that there is no meaningful relationship between two variables—may be the most valuable hypothesis for the scientific method because it is the easiest to test using a statistical analysis. This means you can support your hypothesis with a high level of confidence. Testing the null hypothesis can tell you whether your results are due to the effect of manipulating the dependent variable or due to chance.

## What Is the Null Hypothesis?

The null hypothesis states there is no relationship between the measured phenomenon (the dependent variable) and the independent variable. You do not need to believe that the null hypothesis is true to test it. On the contrary, you will likely suspect that there is a relationship between a set of variables. One way to prove that this is the case is to reject the null hypothesis. Rejecting a hypothesis does not mean an experiment was "bad" or that it didn't produce results. In fact, it is often one of the first steps toward further inquiry.

To distinguish it from other hypotheses, the null hypothesis is written as *H*_{0} (which is read as “H-nought,” "H-null," or "H-zero"). A significance test is used to determine the likelihood that the results supporting the null hypothesis are not due to chance. A confidence level of 95 percent or 99 percent is common. Keep in mind, even if the confidence level is high, there is still a small chance the null hypothesis is not true, perhaps because the experimenter did not account for a critical factor or because of chance. This is one reason why it's important to repeat experiments.

## Examples of the Null Hypothesis

To write a null hypothesis, first start by asking a question. Rephrase that question in a form that assumes no relationship between the variables. In other words, assume a treatment has no effect. Write your hypothesis in a way that reflects this.

Question |
Null Hypothesis |

Are teens better at math than adults? | Age has no effect on mathematical ability. |

Does taking aspirin every day reduce the chance of having a heart attack? | Taking aspirin daily does not affect heart attack risk. |

Do teens use cell phones to access the internet more than adults? | Age has no effect on how cell phones are used for internet access. |

Do cats care about the color of their food? | Cats express no food preference based on color. |

Does chewing willow bark relieve pain? | There is no difference in pain relief after chewing willow bark versus taking a placebo. |