Data analysis methods in optometry. Part 5: correlation

Richard A. Armstrong, Frank Eperjesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


1. Pearson's correlation coefficient only tests whether the data fit a linear model. With large numbers of observations, quite small values of r become significant and the X variable may only account for a minute proportion of the variance in Y. Hence, the value of r squared should always be calculated and included in a discussion of the significance of r. 2. The use of r assumes that a bivariate normal distribution is present and this assumption should be examined prior to the study. If Pearson's r is not appropriate, then a non-parametric correlation coefficient such as Spearman's rs may be used. 3. A significant correlation should not be interpreted as indicating causation especially in observational studies in which there is a high probability that the two variables are correlated because of their mutual correlations with other variables. 4. In studies of measurement error, there are problems in using r as a test of reliability and the ‘intra-class correlation coefficient’ should be used as an alternative. A correlation test provides only limited information as to the relationship between two variables. Fitting a regression line to the data using the method known as ‘least square’ provides much more information and the methods of regression and their application in optometry will be discussed in the next article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-37
Number of pages4
JournalOptometry Today
Issue numberFebruary
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2005


  • testing
  • degree of correlation
  • variables
  • statistical procedures
  • erroneous conclusions


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