Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Effective use of Spearman's and Kendall's correlation coefficients for association between two measured traits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

M.-T. Puth, M. Neuhäuser, G.D. Ruxton

School/Research organisations

Abstract

We examine the performance of the two rank order correlation coefficients (Spearman's rho and Kendall's tau) for describing the strength of association between two continuously measured traits. We begin by discussing when these measures should, and should not, be preferred over Pearson's product-moment correlation coefficient on conceptual grounds. For testing the null hypothesis of no monotonic association, our simulation studies found both rank coefficients show similar performance to variants of the Pearson product-moment measure of association, and provide only slightly better performance than Pearson's measure even if the two measured traits are non-normally distributed. Where variants of the Pearson measure are not appropriate, there was no strong reason (based on our results) to select either of our rank-based alternatives over the other for testing the null hypothesis of no monotonic association. Further, our simulation studies indicated that for both rank coefficients there exists at least one method for calculating confidence intervals that supplies results close to the desired level if there are no tied values in the data. In this case, Kendall's coefficient produces consistently narrower confidence intervals, and might thus be preferred on that basis. However, if there are any ties in the data, irrespective of whether the percentage of ties is small or large, Spearman's measure returns values closer to the desired coverage rates, whereas Kendall's results differ more and more from the desired level as the number of ties increases, especially for large correlation values.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume102
Early online date5 Feb 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

    Research areas

  • Confidence intervals, Null hypothesis testing, Pearson's product–moment correlation coefficient, Power, Statistics, Type 1 error

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. A theory for investment across defences triggered at different stages of a predator-prey encounter

    Wang, L., Ruxton, G. D., Cornell, S. J., Speed, M. P. & Broom, M., 17 Apr 2019, In : Journal of Theoretical Biology. 473, p. 9-19 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Secondary dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds: a review

    der Weduwen, D. & Ruxton, G. D., 19 Jun 2019, In : Biological Reviews. Early View, 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Circular statistics meets practical limitations: a simulation-based Rao’s spacing test for non-continuous data

    Landler, L., Ruxton, G. D. & Malkemper, E. P., 10 May 2019, In : Movement Ecology. 7, 5 p., 15.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Dropping to escape: a review of an under-appreciated antipredator defence

    Humphreys, R. K. & Ruxton, G. D., Apr 2019, In : Biological Reviews. 94, 2, p. 575-589

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Related by journal

  1. Animal Behaviour (Journal)

    Susan Denise Healy (Editor)
    1 Jan 201831 Dec 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  2. Animal Behaviour (Journal)

    Will Cresswell (Reviewer)
    15 Sep 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Animal Behaviour (Journal)

    Michael Munro Webster (Editor)
    1 Jan 201731 Dec 2019

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  4. Animal Behaviour (Journal)

    Susan Denise Healy (Editor)
    1 Jan 201731 Dec 2017

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  5. Animal Behaviour (Journal)

    Susan Denise Healy (Editor)
    1 Jun 201631 Dec 2016

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

Related by journal

  1. Evolutionary roads to syntax

    Zuberbuhler, K., May 2019, In : Animal Behaviour. 151, p. 259-265

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Male Norway rats cooperate according to direct but not generalized reciprocity rules

    Schweinfurth, M. K., Aeschbacher, J., Santi, M. & Taborsky, M., Jun 2019, In : Animal Behaviour. 152, p. 93-101

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Precocial juvenile lizards show adult level learning and behavioural flexibility

    Szabo, B., Noble, D. W. A., Byrne, R. W., Tait, D. S. & Whiting, M. J., 11 Jul 2019, In : Animal Behaviour. 154, p. 75-84 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Development of object manipulation in wild chimpanzees

    Lamon, N., Neumann, C. & Zuberbuhler, K., Jan 2018, In : Animal Behaviour. 135, p. 121-130

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Experience shapes social information use in foraging fish

    Webster, M. M. & Laland, K. N., Dec 2018, In : Animal Behaviour. 146, p. 63-70

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 168621453