Library / Bivariate Median Splits and Spurious Statistical Significance


Scott E Maxwell, Harold D Delaney “Bivariate median splits and spurious statistical significance” (1993) // Psychological Bulletin. Publisher: American Psychological Association (APA). Vol. 113. No 1. Pp. 181–190. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.113.1.181


  title = {Bivariate median splits and spurious statistical significance},
  volume = {113},
  issn = {0033-2909},
  url = {},
  doi = {10.1037/0033-2909.113.1.181},
  number = {1},
  journal = {Psychological Bulletin},
  publisher = {American Psychological Association (APA)},
  author = {Maxwell, Scott E and Delaney, Harold D},
  year = {1993},
  month = {jan},
  pages = {181–190}

Quotes (1)

Dichotomization of 2 Continuous Independent Variables

Despite pleas from methodologists, researchers often continue to dichotomize continuous predictor variables. The primary argument against this practice has been that it underestimates the strength of relationships and reduces statistical power. Although this argument is correct for relationships involving a single predictor, a different problem can arise when multiple predictors are involved. Specifically, dichotomizing 2 continuous independent variables can lead to false statistical significance. As a result, the typical justification for using a median split as long as results continue to be statistically significant is invalid, because such results may in fact be spurious. Thus, researchers who dichotomize multiple continuous predictor variables not only may lose power to detect true predictor-criterion relationships in some situations but also may dramatically increase the probability of Type I errors in other situations.

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