Hypotheses

Hypotheses are statements of the relationships among things, often taking the form of if-then statements. If brightly colored male guppies are more likely to attract predators, then in environments with high predation, guppies will be less brightly colored. If levels of lead in the bloodstream of children is inversely associated with IQ scores, then children in environments with greater amounts of lead should have lower IQ scores. Elephant groups are led by matriarchs, the eldest females. If the age (and thus experience) of the matriarch is important for the survival of the group, then groups with younger matriarchs will have higher infant mortality than those led by older ones. Each of these hypotheses is directly testable and can be either disconfirmed or confirmed (note that hypotheses are not proved "right"—any more than any scientific explanation is proved). Hypotheses are very important in the development of scientific explanations. Whether rejected or confirmed, tested hypotheses help to build explanations by removing incorrect approaches and encouraging the further testing of fruitful ones. Much hypothesis testing in science depends on demonstrating that a result found in a comparison occurs more or less frequently than would be the case if only chance were operating; statistics and probability are important components of scientific hypothesis testing.

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