Understanding research: the direction of a correlation

Understanding research: the direction of a correlation

As mentioned in my last blog in the Understanding Research Series, correlations have a direction. So what does this mean?

Positive Correlations

Negative Correlations

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Positive correlations

Say you are looking at two factors which are correlated like the the grades students achieve and the amount of studying they do.

Some research found the following:
i27Unsurprisingly the fewer hours a student spent studying the lower their final grades are likely to be and conversely the more hours they spend studying the higher their grades are likely to be.

This means that as one variable (the amount of hours spent studying) increases so does the other variable. And conversely as the number of hours decreases so does the grade level the student is likely to achieve. This is called a positive correlation. Basically this says that the direction of the correlation are tied together, they move in the same direction; as one goes up so does the other.



Negative Correlations
i29A negative correlation says the opposite. As one variable increases and other decreases. For example we could look at the grade a student gets compared to the number of beers they drink. What we are likely to find here is that the more a student drinks just before an exam the lower their grade is going to be. So the student who drinks just one beer before the exam is very likely to get better grades than the students who drink 15 beers before the exam!

This is a negative correlation. So the direction of the relationship between the two things are opposite, as one increases the other decreases.

The direction of a correlation is important because it tells you about the nature of their relationship.

In the next blog in this series I will take this a little further and look at the idea of the perfect correlation or the perfect relationships, strong relationships and weak relationships and what they mean.

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page