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Tara has taught Psychology and has a master's degree in evolutionary

psychology.

In this lesson, we will explain the most common statistical procedure in the
field of psychology, the analysis of variance (ANOVA), in a way that's easy to
understand. Then test your knowledge with a quiz.

We also recommend watching What is a Chi-Square Test? - Definition &


Example and What Are t-Tests? - Assessing Statistical Differences Between
Groups

ANOVA Defined
The acronym ANOVA refers to analysis of variance and is a statistical
procedure used to test the degree to which two or more groups vary or differ
in an experiment. In most experiments, a great deal of variance (or
difference) usually indicates that there was a significant finding from the
research. The following sections will provide detailed examples of how an
ANOVA works and how it can applied to real life situations.

Example
In the majority of experiments, you need first a null hypothesis and an
alternative hypothesis. The null hypothesis is the assumption that there will
be no differences between groups that are tested and therefore no significant
results will be revealed. The alternative hypothesis, on the other hand, is the
hypothesis stating that there will be a difference between groups as indicated
by the ANOVA performed on the data that is collected.

Let's use an experiment scenario to help explain things. Imagine that you are
running an experiment to see if there is a relationship between people's
religion and what they consider the ideal family size to be. You would likely do
this by recruiting individuals from different religious groups and asking them
to report what they consider the ideal amount of children in a family should
be. Let us further say that you ended up recruiting 10 Catholics, 10
Protestants, and 10 Jewish individuals to answer this question.

In this case, you have one independent variable, which is religion, that is
thought to have an effect on the opinion of ideal family size, which is the
dependent variable in this scenario. Religion should affect the ideal family
size and since it is the factor thought to influence the difference, it is the
independent variable. Additionally, this experiment includes three different
levels of the independent variable. In this case, the three levels are the three
different groups of religions in which one is Catholic, one is Protestant, and
one is Jewish.

The fact that we have differing levels of the independent variable of religion
is what allows us to carry out an ANOVA. Let's say that after asking all the
people in all three groups what they consider the ideal number of children in
a family to be, you record each person's answer and then calculate the mean,
or average, number reported by each collective group. You discover that the
average number of children reported by the Catholic group is 3, for the
Protestant group it is 2, and for the Jewish group it is 1.

At first glance, it may seem like there is a definite difference between these
three groups in their opinion on the ideal number of children. However, we
must keep in mind that this could be due to chance and these numbers could
be very different if we asked 10 different Catholics, 10 different Protestants,
and 10 different Jewish individuals. Therefore, an ANOVA is a good test to use
as it will control for this and determine if there really is a difference between
the three groups beyond mere random chance.

In this particular example, the differences between the averages of the three
groups were statistically significant (as computed by the ANOVA test) and not
due to chance. This means that religious affiliation does influence opinions on
the ideal number of children in a family. Therefore, we have shown that the
null hypothesis is false since there is a significant difference between the
three religious groups, and that the alternative hypothesis has been proven
true.

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