Is there some one-word replacement for "showed the absence" in a sentence like "Our research showed the absence of a certain effect"?

I want to say that the effect was not observed, not that the effect was disproved.

  • 3
    What exactly do you mean by "showed the absence" in your example? One possible sense is ruled out (no such effect was found, because no such effect exists to be found). But that's not necessarily the same thing as finding no evidence of the effect (which the researchers may still think does actually exist; perhaps they just need to design a better experiment to demonstrate it). Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 15:04
  • "finding no evidence" is a better match, because "showed the absence" is an observation, not interpretation. However, I'd like to keep 'research' as a subject in this sentence. Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 15:33
  • 1
    I think you should edit your question text to reflect the fact that you're only interested in making the observation that no effect was in fact detected - with no particular implications as to whether or not the effect does or could actually exist (if the experiment had been more sensitive, perhaps). But as a general principle, II would say that if an experiment shows something (including even the absence of evidence for whatever one might have been testing for), that would normally be seen as indicative of a meaningful interpretation. Otherwise we'd say found, not showed Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 16:08
  • showed there was an absence of [of a certain effect]; showed no presence of [of a certain effect]
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 17:06
  • "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"
    – Patrick M
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 21:57

4 Answers 4



True, the typical objects of this transitive verb are abstract, proposition-like things: contention, hypothesis, assumption, predisposition, view, assertion, claim, supposition, theory, possibility, account, prediction, etc.

However, attested examples do exist in which the thing being disconfirmed is a phenomenon, at least broadly speaking:

Controlled research that disconfirms the phenomenon is criticized on grounds of rigor. (source)
The questionnaire study disconfirmed any direct impact of the location of the addressee on the choice of demonstrative. (source)
The tendency of the existence of vast amounts of intense human and animal suffering to disconfirm the existence of O can be defeated. (source; this sort of usage with existence is very common, see here)


This word was first suggested by user22542 in their answer on this page.

As with disconfirm, we usually contradict a slightly different kind of 'thing' than an effect: statement, information, sentence, teaching, fact, record, evidence, the Scriptures, text, concept, result, belief, theory, finding, claim, hypothesis, view, observation, etc.

However, as with disconform, there are attested examples of usage relevant to your request:

A meta-analysis requires a simple classification—whether the results supported, did not support, or contradicted the effect, and how large the effect was. (source)
Several studies implicate oral estrogens as increasing coagulation activation, while others contradict the effect, especially when progesterone is also taken. (source)
interviews with experts who confirmed or contradicted the phenomenon alleged or conveyed by the report. (source)


The best word I can find, given your example, is "contradicted". It can mean to affirm the opposite of something.

Our data contradicted the effect rather than showing the presence of the effect.

Our research contradicted a certain effect.



A single-word substitute might be tough, and would definitely depend on the technical details of your research area, but here are some other phrases that might work:

  • Our research showed the absence of a certain effect (your original)
  • Our research failed to find a certain effect
  • Our research could not identify a certain effect
  • Our research showed no evidence for a certain effect
  • Our research did not show a certain effect
  • Our research was unable to isolate a certain effect
  • Our research was not impacted by a certain effect
  • Our research contradicted (?) a certain effect? (per @user22542's answer)
  • Our research disproved (??) a certain effect
  • Our research counter-indicated (??) a certain effect

Clearly some of these have very different meaning, but hopefully some of them lead you in a useful direction.


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Often, you cannot definitively prove a negative because a single positive example shows you’re wrong, so you probably shouldn’t say for sure that a measured effect was absent. Instead you can say something like:

Our research revealed no evidence of the foo effect, which contradicts evidence in (cite)

(As suggested in other answers.)

However, if your research is in something like the local council provision for an impending zombie apocalypse, for example, you could say:

Our work reveals a lack of (council) provision (for zombie confinement areas)

It would also be fine to use "absence" here.

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