What's the difference between an indpendent and dependent variable?


One of the hardest concepts for students in statistics is breaking down concepts. This is in part because statistics is a foreign language. The concepts are not something we use in our everyday language. One of the very first concepts that a student finds challenging is being able to differentiate between an independent variable and a dependent variable.


Independent variable- Any variable whose value determines or influences the value of others.

Dependent variable- The variable that measures the outcome. The one that is influenced by the independent variable.

While the definitions above are spot on. They do not provide enough information or frame of reference for easy understanding and future recall. A better way to think about them is by focusing on the independent variable. If we think of the independent variable in terms of independent being used in regular conversation. Such as an independent person is free to decide what they want to do or more specifically where they want to go for lunch. They decide what they are going to eat. Unlike a someone who is dependent like a child. What the child is going to eat is directly influenced by their independent parent.

Therefore, the main conclusion is that the independent variable is always the influencer that provides the input. Much like a key stroke on a keyboard (independent variable) determines what shows up on the screen (dependant variable).