Nevin Manimala Statistics

The Curious Case of the Cross-Sectional Correlation

Multivariate Behav Res. 2023 Jan 4:1-12. doi: 10.1080/00273171.2022.2155930. Online ahead of print.


The cross-sectional correlation is frequently used to summarize psychological data, and can be considered the basis for many statistical techniques. However, the work of Peter Molenaar on ergodicity has raised concerns about the meaning and utility of this measure, especially when the interest is in discovering general laws that apply to (all) individuals. Through using Cattell’s databox and adopting a multilevel perspective, this paper provides a closer look at the cross-sectional correlation, with the goal to better understand its meaning when ergodicity is absent. An analytical expression is presented that shows the cross-sectional correlation is a function of the between-person correlation (based on person-specific means), and the within-person correlation (based on individuals’ temporal deviations from their person-specific means). Two curiosities related to this expression of the cross-sectional correlation are elaborated on, that is: a) the difference between the within-person correlation and the (average) person-specific correlation; and b) the unexpected scenarios that can arise because the cross-sectional correlation is a weighted sum rather than a weighted average of the between-person and within-person correlations. Seven specific examples are presented to illustrate various ways in which these two curiosities may combine; R code is provided, which allows researchers to investigate additional scenarios.

PMID:36599045 | DOI:10.1080/00273171.2022.2155930

By Nevin Manimala

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