Background: Statistical significance is an important concept in empirical science. However the meaning of the term varies widely. We investigate into the intuitive understanding of the notion of significance. Methods: We described the results of two different experiments published in a major psychological journal to a sample of students of psychology, labeling the findings as ‘significant versus ‘non-significant. Participants were asked to estimate the effect sizes and sample sizes of the original studies. Results: Labeling the results of a study as significant was associated with estimations of a big effect, but was largely unrelated to sample size. Similarly, non-significant results were estimated as near zero in effect size. Conclusions: After considerable training in statistics, students largely equate statistical significance with medium to large effect sizes, rather than with large sample sizes. The data show that students assume that statistical significance is due to real effects, rather than to ‘statistical tricks (e.g., increasing sample size).