Strategies for Choosing and Planning a Statistical Analysis

November 9th, 2012 by

The first real data set I ever analyzed was from my senior honors thesis as an undergraduate psychology major. I had taken both intro stats and an ANOVA class, and I applied all my new skills with gusto, analyzing every which way.

It wasn’t too many years into graduate school that I realized that these data analyses were a bit haphazard and not at all well thought out. 20 years of data analysis experience later and I realized that’s just a symptom of being an inexperienced data analyst.

But even experienced data analysts can get off track, especially with large data sets with many variables. It’s just so easy to try one thing, then another, and pretty soon you’ve spent weeks getting nowhere. (more…)

Steps to Take When Your Regression (or Other Statistical) Results Just Look…Wrong

April 19th, 2010 by

Stage 2You’ve probably experienced this before. You’ve done a statistical analysis, you’ve figured out all the steps, you finally get results and are able to interpret them. But they just look…wrong. Backwards, or even impossible—theoretically or logically.

This happened a few times recently to a couple of my consulting clients, and once to me. So I know that feeling of panic well. There are so many possible causes of incorrect results, but there are a few steps you can take that will help you figure out which one you’ve got and how (and whether) to correct it.

Errors in Data Coding and Entry

In both of my clients’ cases, the problem was that they had coded missing data with an impossible and extreme value, like 99. But they failed to define that code as missing in SPSS. So SPSS took 99 as a real data point, which (more…)

Is Multicollinearity the Bogeyman?

April 8th, 2009 by

Stage 2Multicollinearity occurs when two or more predictor variables in a regression model are redundant.  It is a real problem, and it can do terrible things to your results.  However, the dangers of multicollinearity seem to have been so drummed into students’ minds that it created a panic.

True multicolllinearity (the kind that messes things up) is pretty uncommon.  High correlations among predictor variables may indicate multicollinearity, but it is NOT a reliable indicator that it exists.  It does not necessarily indicate a problem.  How high is too high depends on (more…)

Centering for Multicollinearity Between Main effects and Quadratic terms

December 10th, 2008 by

One of the most common causes of multicollinearity is when predictor variables are multiplied to create an interaction term or a quadratic or higher order terms (X squared, X cubed, etc.).

Why does this happen?  When all the X values are positive, higher values produce high products and lower values produce low products.  So the product variable is highly correlated with the component variable.  I will do a very simple example to clarify.  (Actually, if they are all on a negative scale, the same thing would happen, but the correlation would be negative).

In a small sample, say you have the following values of a predictor variable X, sorted in ascending order:

2, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8

It is clear to you that the relationship between X and Y is not linear, but curved, so you add a quadratic term, X squared (X2), to the model.  The values of X squared are:

4, 16, 16, 25, 49, 49, 64, 64, 64

The correlation between X and X2 is .987–almost perfect.

Plot of X vs. X squared
Plot of X vs. X squared

To remedy this, you simply center X at its mean.  The mean of X is 5.9.  So to center X, I simply create a new variable XCen=X-5.9.

These are the values of XCen:

-3.90, -1.90, -1.90, -.90, .10, 1.10, 1.10, 2.10, 2.10, 2.10

Now, the values of XCen squared are:

15.21, 3.61, 3.61, .81, .01, 1.21, 1.21, 4.41, 4.41, 4.41

The correlation between XCen and XCen2 is -.54–still not 0, but much more managable.  Definitely low enough to not cause severe multicollinearity.  This works because the low end of the scale now has large absolute values, so its square becomes large.

The scatterplot between XCen and XCen2 is:

Plot of Centered X vs. Centered X squared
Plot of Centered X vs. Centered X squared

If the values of X had been less skewed, this would be a perfectly balanced parabola, and the correlation would be 0.

Tonight is my free teletraining on Multicollinearity, where we will talk more about it.  Register to join me tonight or to get the recording after the call.