Linear regression

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This is a technical method discussed in Social Media Analysis 10-802 in Spring 2010.

Linear regression analyzes the relationship between two variables, X and Y. For each subject (or experimental unit), you know both X and Y and you want to find the best straight line through the data. In some situations, the slope and/or intercept have a scientific meaning. In other cases, you use the linear regression line as a standard curve to find new values of X from Y, or Y from X.

The term "regression", like many statistical terms, is used in statistics quite differently than it is used in other contexts. The method was first used to examine the relationship between the heights of fathers and sons. The two were related, of course, but the slope is less than 1.0. A tall father tended to have sons shorter than himself; a short father tended to have sons taller than himself. The height of sons regressed to the mean. The term "regression" is now used for many sorts of curve fitting.

Prism determines and graphs the best-fit linear regression line, optionally including a 95% confidence interval or 95% prediction interval bands. You may also force the line through a particular point (usually the origin), calculate residuals, calculate a runs test, or compare the slopes and intercepts of two or more regression lines.

In general, the goal of linear regression is to find the line that best predicts Y from X. Linear regression does this by finding the line that minimizes the sum of the squares of the vertical distances of the points from the line.