significance is a measure of whether a research
result "matters" in the real world. For example, consider
a hypothetical research study to see whether a new experimental
drug helps treat memory
loss in Alzheimer's
disease. First, patients are given a series of neuropsychological
tests to assess their memory.
Next, the patients are given six months' of treatment with
the new drug. Finally, patients' memory is tested again. In
this hypothetical example, suppose that the test scores of
patients given the drug actually increase 2-3 points by the
end of the experiment. This increase may be enough to publish
as a research finding -- but this doesn't necessarily mean
that there will be visible improvement in the patients' ability
to perform the activities of daily living, such as remembering
names or balancing a checkbook.
While research results are often assessed
through "objective" neuropsychological tests which generate
numerical scores, clinical significance is often assessed
through "subjective" measures, such as the impressions of
a doctor or caregiver about whether a patient has really benefited
noticeably from the treatment.
by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain