# Correlation. What Is Correlation? Perfect Correlation. Perfect Correlation. Greg C Elvers

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1 Correlation Greg C Elvers What Is Correlation? Correlation is a descriptive statistic that tells you if two variables are related to each other E.g. Is your related to how much you study? When two variables are correlated, knowing the value of one variable allows you to predict the value of the other variable Perfect Correlation When two variables are perfectly correlated, knowing the value of one variable allows you to exactly predict the value of the other variable Perfect Correlation For example, if the only thing that determined your was the amount of time that you studied, then the two would be perfectly correlated If you know the value of one variable, you can exactly determine the value of the other variable 5 Study Hours per Day

2 Perfect Correlation That is, all the variability in one variable is explained by the variability in the other variable 5 Study Hours per Day 5 Perfect Correlations Few, if any, psychological variables are perfectly correlated with each other Many non-psychological variables do have a perfect correlation E.g. Time since the beginning of class and the time remaining in the class are perfectly correlated What are other examples of perfectly correlated variables? 6 Less Than Perfect Correlations Even if two variables are correlated, most of the time you cannot perfectly predict the value of one variable given the other E.g., other variables besides amount of time spent studying influence your Some of the variability is people s is due to the amount of time spent studying, but not all the variability is due to it 7 Less Than Perfect Correlations Study Time IQ Study Hours per Day 8

3 Less Than Perfect Correlations With a less than perfect correlation, we can no longer perfectly predict the value of one variable given the other variable We cannot explain all the variability in one variable with the variability in the other variable 9 The Correlation Coefficient Correlation coefficients tell us how perfectly two (or more) variables are related to each other They can also be used to determine how much variability in one variable is explainable by variation in the other variable. Pearson s Product Moment Correlation Coefficient Pearson s product moment correlation coefficient, or Pearson s r, for short is a very common measure of how strongly two variables are related to each other Pearson s r must lie in the range of - to + inclusive Interpretation of Pearson s r To interpret Pearson s r, you must consider two parts of it: The sign of r The magnitude, or absolute value of r

4 The Sign of r When r is greater than (I.e. its sign is positive) the variables are said to have a direct relation In a direct relation, as the value of one variable increases, the value of the other variable also tends to increase 6 Study Hours per Night The Sign of r When r is less than (i.e., its sign is negative) the variables are said to have an indirect relation In an indirect relation, as the value of one variable increases, the value of the other variable tends to decrease 6 Hours of TV per Night Is the Sign of r + or -? As the number of cigarettes smoked per day increases, tends to decrease As the number of cats in a farm yard increases, the number of mice tends to decrease As the weight of a cat increases, the length of its whiskers tends to increase 5 Is the Sign of r + or -? Create two examples of correlations and determine if the sign of r is positive or negative 6

5 The Magnitude of r The magnitude refers to the size of the correlation coefficient ignoring the sign of r The magnitude is equivalent to taking the absolute value of r The larger the magnitude of r is, the more perfectly the two variables are related to each other The smaller the magnitude of r is, the less perfectly the two variables are related to each other r = 7 When r equals., there is a perfect correlation between the variables Knowing the value of one variable exactly predicts the value of the other variable Hours Minutes 8 r = When r equals, either the assumptions of correlation have been violated or there is no relation between the two variables The points in a scatter plot with r = will tend to form a circular cluster The larger the magnitude or r is, the more the scatter plot s points will tend to cluster tightly about a line < r < < r <

6 Magnitude of r Cohen (988) recommends the following values of r for small, medium, and large effects Correlation Small Medium Negative -.9 to to -. Positive. to.9. to.9 Large -. to to. Magnitude of r List a couple of pairs of variables and guess whether the magnitude of r is closer to or closer to Pearson s r Pearson s r makes several assumptions about the data When these assumptions are violated, r must be interpreted with extreme caution Assumptions: Linear relation Non-truncated range Sufficiently large sample size Linear Relation Pearson s r, in its simplest form, only works for variables that are linearly related That is, the equation that allows us to predict the value of one variable from the value of the other is a line: Y = slope * X + intercept Always look at the scatter plot to determine if the two variables are approximately linearly related

7 Linear Relation If the variables are not linearly related, Pearson s r will indicate a smaller relation than actually exists Often, non-linear relations can be transformed into linear ones by taking the appropriate mathematical transformation 5 Square Root of Y Transformation Non-Truncated Range A truncated range occurs when the range of one of the variables is very small When the range is truncated, Pearson s r will indicate a smaller relation between the variables than what actually exists Once a range truncation occurs, there is little that you can do; be careful not to design studies that will lead to a truncated range 7 Truncated Range A linear relation clearly exists in this data Consider only the data in the square (thereby truncating the range) Is the linear relation as clear as it was? No College High School 8

8 Sample Size If the size of the sample is too small, relations can appear due to chance These relations disappear when a larger sample is considered Too large of a sample can make near correlations statistically significant, even though they have very little explanatory power 9 Sample Size The magnitude of r does not depend on sample size The likelihood of finding a statistically significant r does depend on sample size The sample should be large enough to generalize to the population of interest

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