Statistical significance, ESP and the law: what's all that about?

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates. was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

Statistical significance testing is one of the commonest formal ways of handling some kinds of uncertainty, but arguably it's one of the most misunderstood. We've posted a new article about statistical significance, in the context of some very controversial psychological experiments about extra-sensory perception (ESP).

Also there's a new article on the Open University website on how and why the US Supreme Court ruled on statistical significance. And there's an interview with economist Steve Ziliak about the Supreme Court case on this week's edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme More or Less. The programme's website is here, and if you missed the broadcast (15 and 17 April 2011), you might still be able to download the podcast or (if you're in the UK) listen to the programme from the archive. Finally, a previous blog entry pointed out an excellent Web comic on significance tests.

We hope all this helps you get your head round the ideas.