When you learned analysis of variance (ANOVA), it’s likely that the emphasis was on the ANOVA table, with its Sums of Squares and F tests, followed by a post-hoc test. But ANOVA is quite flexible in how it can compare means. A large part of that flexibility comes from its ability to perform many types of statistical contrast.
That F test can tell you if there is evidence your categories are different from each other, which is a start. It is, however, only a start. Once you know at least some categories’ means are different, your next question is “How are they different?” This is what a statistical contrast can tell you.
What is a Statistical Contrast?
A statistical contrast is a comparison of a combination of the means of two or more categories. In practice, they are usually performed as a follow up to the ANOVA F test. Most statistical programs include contrasts as an optional part of ANOVA analysis. (more…)