We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Exploratory hypothesis tests can be more compelling than confirmatory hypothesis tests

Rubin, Mark and Donkin, Chris (2022) 'Exploratory hypothesis tests can be more compelling than confirmatory hypothesis tests.', Philosophical Psychology .


Preregistration has been proposed as a useful method for making a publicly verifiable distinction between confirmatory hypothesis tests, which involve planned tests of ante hoc hypotheses, and exploratory hypothesis tests, which involve unplanned tests of post hoc hypotheses. This distinction is thought to be important because it has been proposed that confirmatory hypothesis tests provide more compelling results (less uncertain, less tentative, less open to bias) than exploratory hypothesis tests. In this article, we challenge this proposition and argue that there are several advantages of exploratory hypothesis tests that can make their results more compelling than those of confirmatory hypothesis tests. We also consider some potential disadvantages of exploratory hypothesis tests and conclude that their advantages can outweigh the disadvantages. We conclude that exploratory hypothesis tests avoid researcher commitment and researcher prophecy biases, reduce the probability of data fraud, are more appropriate in the context of unplanned deviations, facilitate inference to the best explanation, and allow peer reviewers to make additional contributions at the data analysis stage. In contrast, confirmatory hypothesis tests may lead to an inappropriate level of confidence in research conclusions, less appropriate analyses in the context of unplanned deviations, and greater bias and errors in theoretical inferences.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:11 August 2022
Date deposited:31 August 2022
Date of first online publication:26 August 2022
Date first made open access:31 August 2022

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar