- effect sizes (Cohen’s d, which gives mean difference between groups in z-score units)
- average for each group for reading scores scaled so the mean for the aA/AA group is 100 with SD of 15
When you have the kind of sample size that experimental or clinical psychologists often work with, with 25 participants per group, a p of .001 is indicative of a big effect, with a mean difference between groups of almost one SD. However, you may be surprised at how small the effect size is when you have a large sample. If you have a sample of 3000 or so, then a difference of just 1-2 points (or .08 SD) will give you p < .001. Most molecular genetic studies have large sample sizes. Geneticists in this area have learned that they have to have large samples, because they are looking for small effects!
Update 21/4/12: Thanks to Tom Scerri for pointing out my original wording talked of "two versions of an allele", which has now been corrected to "a genetic locus with two alleles"; as Tom noted: an allele is an allele, you can't have two versions of it.
Tom also noted that in the table, I had taken the aA/AA genotype as the reference group for standardisation to mean 100, SD 15. A more realistic simulation would take the whole population with all three genotypes as the reference group, in which case the effect size would result from the aA/AA group having a mean above 100, while the aa group would have mean below 100. This would entail that, relative to the grand population average, the averages for aa would be higher than shown here, so that the number with clinically significant deficits will be even smaller.
I hope in future to illustrate these points by computing effect sizes for published molecular genetic studies reporting links with cognitive phenotypes.