central tendency (measures of)
Any elementary statistical textbook will supply formulae for the calculation of measures of central tendency. The following examples may help to illustrate the principles outlined above. If, for example, a poll of voters in a small town suggests that 40 per cent will vote Republican, 35 per cent will vote Democrat, while 25 per cent will not vote at all, then we may say that the typical voter among these townspeople is a Republican. This is the category which has the largest representation—the mode. (A distribution with two modal categories is termed bimodal.) By comparison, the median value in a series is the middle case; or, more precisely, the point which neither exceeds nor is exceeded by more than 50 per cent of the total observations. For example, a number of students might be tested in an examination and receive the following grades: Joan—B, Bill—C, James—D, Brett—F, Joyce—F. In this distribution, the middle case is James, since he has two students ranking above and two below him. The median mark is therefore D. The mean is the measurement of central tendency most people have in mind when they talk about ‘the average’. For example, we may record the number of times a particular university professor at his or her desk is interrupted by telephone calls each day for a week, and obtain the following data: Monday = 4, Tuesday = 6, Wednesday = 4, Thursday = 4, Friday = 2, Saturday = 4. The average number of interruptions per day is therefore 24 (total number of scores in the set) divided by 6 (the number of cases)—giving a mean of 4 calls each day. See also SKEWNESS.
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