Response Variable in Statistics: Definition & Example

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  • 0:02 Response Variable
  • 0:57 Dependent Variable
  • 1:54 Multiple Response Variables
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michelle Blessing

Michelle is a corrections therapist at a state prison. She has also taught classes at community college. She holds a Master's degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.

In statistics, a response variable is the variable about which a researcher is asking a question. He or she wants to know if this variable 'responds' to other factors being examined. This lesson gives you a better understanding of this concept.

Response Variable

Imagine you are conducting a study. You want to know if people give out more Halloween candy to trick or treaters in scary or funny costumes. You and a friend decide to dress up in different costumes and test your theory. After donning your best zombie and clown outfits, you set off on your adventure. Meeting up at the end of the night, you find that your friend (the clown) has much more candy than you do. Next year, you vow to be a clown and collect the most candy possible.

The point of this story? The amount of candy you collected in your zombie costume is known in statistics as the response variable. A response variable is the variable about which a researcher is asking a specific question. In our example, the variable was how much Halloween candy you collected. The response variable can be affected by many different factors, known as explanatory variables.

Dependent Variable

The response variable is also known as the dependent variable. In other words, the response variable depends on another factor, known as the independent variable, to cause change, or response, to it. Here's an example:

A college professor believes that playing the same soothing music both during class time and while students are taking a test will improve their scores. In order to test his theory, he plays soothing music during each of his lectures. During an exam, he splits the class into two separate groups: one group takes the exam in a room that is silent, and the other group takes the exam in a room where students can hear the same music played during his lectures. He corrects and compares the scores on the exam, and finds that the students who listened to the music while taking the test did, indeed, score higher. What is the response variable in this experiment? If you said the exam scores, you were correct!

Multiple Response Variables

Certain questions may be appropriate for multiple response variables. In this way, you can determine if one independent factor has an impact on various other concepts. Consider this example:

Let's say you believe that wearing the color blue not only brings you good luck but also makes you hungrier throughout the day and makes people more willing to start conversations with you. So you wear your favorite blue shirt, and you take notes on all three of the response variables as you go about your day. That evening, you tabulate your findings - wearing the color blue did not bring you good luck, but you ate more food than you did yesterday. You also found that people were more willing to approach you at work and talk to you about random subjects. In other words, wearing the color blue produced a response in two of the three variables you examined.

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