Spearman's rho - overview

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Spearman's rho
Paired sample $t$ test
Variable 1Independent variable
One of ordinal level2 paired groups
Variable 2Dependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne quantitative of interval or ratio level
Null hypothesisNull hypothesis
H0: $\rho_s = 0$

Here $\rho_s$ is the Spearman correlation in the population. The Spearman correlation is a measure for the strength and direction of the monotonic relationship between two variables of at least ordinal measurement level.

In words, the null hypothesis would be:

H0: there is no monotonic relationship between the two variables in the population.
H0: $\mu = \mu_0$

Here $\mu$ is the population mean of the difference scores, and $\mu_0$ is the population mean of the difference scores according to the null hypothesis, which is usually 0. A difference score is the difference between the first score of a pair and the second score of a pair.
Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
H1 two sided: $\rho_s \neq 0$
H1 right sided: $\rho_s > 0$
H1 left sided: $\rho_s < 0$
H1 two sided: $\mu \neq \mu_0$
H1 right sided: $\mu > \mu_0$
H1 left sided: $\mu < \mu_0$
AssumptionsAssumptions
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
Note: this assumption is only important for the significance test, not for the correlation coefficient itself. The correlation coefficient itself just measures the strength of the monotonic relationship between two variables.
  • Difference scores are normally distributed in the population
  • Sample of difference scores is a simple random sample from the population of difference scores. That is, difference scores are independent of one another
Test statisticTest statistic
$t = \dfrac{r_s \times \sqrt{N - 2}}{\sqrt{1 - r_s^2}} $
Here $r_s$ is the sample Spearman correlation and $N$ is the sample size. The sample Spearman correlation $r_s$ is equal to the Pearson correlation applied to the rank scores.
$t = \dfrac{\bar{y} - \mu_0}{s / \sqrt{N}}$
Here $\bar{y}$ is the sample mean of the difference scores, $\mu_0$ is the population mean of the difference scores according to the null hypothesis, $s$ is the sample standard deviation of the difference scores, and $N$ is the sample size (number of difference scores).

The denominator $s / \sqrt{N}$ is the standard error of the sampling distribution of $\bar{y}$. The $t$ value indicates how many standard errors $\bar{y}$ is removed from $\mu_0$.
Sampling distribution of $t$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $t$ if H0 were true
Approximately the $t$ distribution with $N - 2$ degrees of freedom$t$ distribution with $N - 1$ degrees of freedom
Significant?Significant?
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided: Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
n.a.$C\%$ confidence interval for $\mu$
-$\bar{y} \pm t^* \times \dfrac{s}{\sqrt{N}}$
where the critical value $t^*$ is the value under the $t_{N-1}$ distribution with the area $C / 100$ between $-t^*$ and $t^*$ (e.g. $t^*$ = 2.086 for a 95% confidence interval when df = 20).

The confidence interval for $\mu$ can also be used as significance test.
n.a.Effect size
-Cohen's $d$:
Standardized difference between the sample mean of the difference scores and $\mu_0$: $$d = \frac{\bar{y} - \mu_0}{s}$$ Cohen's $d$ indicates how many standard deviations $s$ the sample mean of the difference scores $\bar{y}$ is removed from $\mu_0.$
n.a.Visual representation
-
Paired sample t test
n.a.Equivalent to
-
  • One sample $t$ test on the difference scores.
  • Repeated measures ANOVA with one dichotomous within subjects factor.
Example contextExample context
Is there a monotonic relationship between physical health and mental health?Is the average difference between the mental health scores before and after an intervention different from $\mu_0 = 0$?
SPSSSPSS
Analyze > Correlate > Bivariate...
  • Put your two variables in the box below Variables
  • Under Correlation Coefficients, select Spearman
Analyze > Compare Means > Paired-Samples T Test...
  • Put the two paired variables in the boxes below Variable 1 and Variable 2
JamoviJamovi
Regression > Correlation Matrix
  • Put your two variables in the white box at the right
  • Under Correlation Coefficients, select Spearman
  • Under Hypothesis, select your alternative hypothesis
T-Tests > Paired Samples T-Test
  • Put the two paired variables in the box below Paired Variables, one on the left side of the vertical line and one on the right side of the vertical line
  • Under Hypothesis, select your alternative hypothesis
Practice questionsPractice questions