Clinical significance is a perceived, valued, and functionally relevant discrepancy in symptoms/abilities that reflects an important change in functioning. This can involve either an improvement (usually as a result of treatment or intervention) or a decline (typically due progression of illness or disorder) as measured by symptoms or impairment level.
Clinical significance also refers to a static condition of import – for example, a functionally relevant discrepancy between cognitive abilities in different domains (e.g., language vs. visual-perceptual abilities).
While clinical significance may be supported by statistically significant differences on quantitative measures of functioning, statistical significance cannot be equated with clinical significance.
References and Readings
- Jacobson, N. S., Roberts, L. J., Berns, S. B., & McGlinchey, J. B. (1999). Methods for defining and determining the clinical significance of treatment effects: Description, application, and alternatives. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 300–307.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kazdin, A. E. (2003). Clinical significance: Measuring whether interventions make a difference. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed.), Methodological issues and strategies in clinical research (3rd ed., pp. 691–710). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar