Continuing on with my theme of what test to use in Prism when doing any of the multiple comparisons tests we’ve learned about (typically in an ANOVA option), the next test I’d like to describe is the Dunnett’s test.
Developed in 1955 by Canadian Charles Dunnett, this method addresses what is referred to as the multiple comparisons problem (or the Look-elsewhere effect in physics). This problem/effect occurs when you consider a set of statistical inferences simultaneously, and basically is when a result appears significant simply by chance. The largest problem with this in regards to our statistical analysis is when we burn our type-one error to perform multiple analyses of the same data.
In short, the biggest difference that sets the Dunnett’s test apart is that is only used to perform multiple comparisons of the data to a control group. Dunnett’s test addresses the multiple comparisons problem by using the family-wise error rate at or below the subjectively set level of type-one error. For this type of experimental design, you wouldn’t use either the Tukey or the Scheffe method of multiple comparisons because they will result in unnecessarily wide confidence intervals. Additionally, since the Dunnett’s method of multiple comparisons relies on comparing the t-statistic (from a student’s t-test) from any given treatment value to the control group, the statistical hypothesis of the experiment can be either one-tailed or two-tailed in nature.
A common application example of the Dunnett’s method for multiple comparisons that one of us may easily encounter as biological research scientists would be for drug treatment studies where a mock control is used as the baseline comparison for subsequent dosage or treatment variables. Something important to remember in the results of any multiple comparisons study is that non-significant to know. For instance if you were studying the comparative effects of novel drugs to the currently accepted drug treatment regime for a disease any non-significant results may help prove the efficacy of your new drug.