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Levels of Measurement in Statistics

Levels of Measurement in Statistics

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Published by: josedenniolim on Aug 06, 2010
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Document Uploaded by J.D. Lim
There are four types of measurements or levels of measurement or measurement scales used instatistics:1.nominal,2.ordinal,3.interval, and4.ratio.
Nominal scale
At the nominal scale, i.e., for a nominal category, one uses labels; for example, rocks can be generallycategorized as igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. For this scale some valid operations areequivalence and set membership.Variables assessed on a nominal scale are called categorical variables; see also categorical data.Stevens must have known that claiming nominal scales to measure obviously non-quantitative thingswould have attracted criticism, so he invoked his theory of measurement to justify nominal scales asmeasurement:“…the use of numerals as names for classes is an example of the assignment of numeralsaccording to rule. The rule is: Do not assign the same numeral to different classes or differentnumerals to the same class. Beyond that, anything goes with the nominal scale.”
Ordinal scale
In this scale type, the numbers assigned to objects or events represent the rank order (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc.)of the entities assessed. An example of ordinal measurement is the results of a horse race, which sayonly which horses arrived first, second, third, etc. but include no information about times. Another is theMohs scale of mineral hardness, which characterizes the hardness of various minerals through the abilityof a harder material to scratch a softer one, saying nothing about the actual hardness of any of them.Interestingly, Stevens' writings betrayed a critical view of psychometrics as he argued:“As a matter of fact, most of the scales used widely and effectively by psychologists are ordinalscales. In the strictest propriety the ordinary statistics involving means and standard deviationsought not to be used with these scales, for these statistics imply a knowledge of something morethan the relative rank order of data (1946, p.679).”Psychometricians like to theorise that psychometric tests produce interval scale measures of cognitiveabilities but there is little prima facie evidence to suggest that such attributes are anything more thanordinal. The central tendency of an ordinal attribute can be represented by its mode or its median, but themean cannot be defined.
Interval scale
Quantitive attributes are all measurable on interval scales, as any difference between the levels of anattribute can be multiplied by any real number to exceed or equal another difference. A highly familiar example of interval scale measurement is temperature with the Celsius scale. In this particular scale, theunit of measurement is 1/100 of the difference between the melting temperature and the boilingtemperature of water in atmospheric pressure. The "zero point" on an interval scale is arbitrary; andnegative values can be used. The formal mathematical term is an affine space (in this case an affine line).Variables measured at the interval level are called "interval variables" or sometimes "scaled variables" asthey have units of measurement.
Document Uploaded by J.D. Lim
Ratios between numbers on the scale are not meaningful, so operations such as multiplication anddivision cannot be carried out directly. But ratios of differences can be expressed; for example, onedifference can be twice another.The central tendency of a variable measured at the interval level can be represented by its mode, itsmedian, or its arithmetic mean. Statistical dispersion can be measured in most of the usual ways, which just involved differences or averaging, such as range, interquartile range, and standard deviation. Sinceone cannot divide, one cannot define measures that require a ratio, such as studentized range or coefficient of variation. More subtly, while one can define moments about the origin, only central momentsare useful, since the choice of origin is arbitrary and not meaningful. One can define standardizedmoments, since ratios of differences are meaningful, but one cannot define coefficient of variation, sincethe mean is a moment about the origin, unlike the standard deviation, which is (the square root of) acentral moment.
Ratio measurement
Most measurement in the physical sciences and engineering is done on ratio scales. Mass, length, time,plane angle, energy and electric charge are examples of physical measures that are ratio scales. Thescale type takes its name from the fact that measurement is the estimation of the ratio between amagnitude of a continuous quantity and a unit magnitude of the same kind (Michell, 1997, 1999).Informally, the distinguishing feature of a ratio scale is the possession of a non-arbitrary zero value. For example, the Kelvin temperature scale has a non-arbitrary zero point of absolute zero, which is denoted0K and is equal to -273.15 degrees Celsius. This zero point is non arbitrary as the particles that comprisematter at this temperature have zero kinetic energy.Examples of ratio scale measurement in the behavioural sciences are all but non-existent. Luce (2000)argues that an example of ratio scale measurement in psychology can be found in rank and signdependent expected utility theory.All statistical measures can be used for a variable measured at the ratio level, as all necessarymathematical operations are defined. The central tendency of a variable measured at the ratio level canbe represented by, in addition to its mode, its median, or its arithmetic mean, also its geometric mean or harmonic mean. In addition to the measures of statistical dispersion defined for interval variables, such asrange and standard deviation, for ratio variables one can also define measures that require a ratio, suchas studentized range or coefficient of variation.They have different degrees of usefulness in statistical research. Ratio measurements have both a zerovalue defined and the distances between different measurements defined; they provide the greatestflexibility in statistical methods that can be used for analyzing the data. Interval measurements havemeaningful distances between measurements defined, but have no meaningful zero value defined (as inthe case with IQ measurements or with temperature measurements in Fahrenheit). Ordinalmeasurements have imprecise differences between consecutive values, but have a meaningful order tothose values. Nominal measurements have no meaningful rank order among values.Since variables conforming only to nominal or ordinal measurements cannot be reasonably measurednumerically, sometimes they are called together as categorical variables, whereas ratio and intervalmeasurements are grouped together as quantitative or continuous variables due to their numerical nature.Some well-known statistical tests and procedures are:
Analysis of variance (ANOVA)
Chi-square test
Factor Analysis
Mann-Whitney U

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