I'm looking for examples of studies where the result is highly significant but the effect is so tiny that it is meaningless in a practical sense. These will be shared with undergraduate psychology students to illustrate that statistically significant doesn't always mean important or consequential.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ There's the recent Facebook emotion contagion study (e.g., "P < 0.001, Cohen’s d = 0.02" and "P = 0.007, d = 0.001"). $\endgroup$
    – mrt
    Nov 11, 2015 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ Problem might get worse if you include CIs - as many CIs reported in studies with low p values include very low effect sizes. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Nov 12, 2015 at 9:05

1 Answer 1


One example might be the effect of birth order on intelligence. Given a large enough sample there highly significant effects (p<.00001). However, these effects are very very small.

For a recent example, see Rohrer, Egloff, and Schmukle (2015): the effect of one birth order position was only one tenth of a standard deviation (1.5 IQ points)

To illustrate this small effect, in our between-family sample of sibships of two, a randomly picked firstborn had a 52% chance of having a higher IQ than a randomly picked secondborn; conversely, a secondborn had a 48% chance of having a higher IQ than a firstborn.


Rohrer, J. M., Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2015). Examining the effects of birth order on personality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201506451. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1506451112


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