Toward a More Nuanced Understanding of the Statistical Properties of a Median Split

Journal of Consumer Psychology 25, 4 (2015) 652-665

14 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2015 Last revised: 19 Feb 2016

See all articles by Dawn Iacobucci

Dawn Iacobucci

Vanderbilt University - Marketing; Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Steven S. Posavac

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Frank R. Kardes

University of Cincinnati - Department of Marketing

Matthew Schneider

Northwestern University - Integrated Marketing Communications Program

Deidre Popovich

Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Some behavioral researchers occasionally wish to conduct a median split on a continuous variable and use the result in subsequent modeling to facilitate analytic ease and communication clarity. Traditionally, this practice of dichotomization has been criticized for the resulting loss of information and reduction in power. More recently, this practice has been criticized for sometimes producing Type I errors for effects regarding other terms in a model, resulting in a recommendation of the unconditional avoidance of median splits. In this paper, we use simulation studies to demonstrate more thoroughly than has been shown in the literature to date when median splits should not be used, and conversely, to provide nuance and balance to the extant literature regarding when median splits may be used with complete analytical integrity. For the scenario we explicate, the use of a median split is as good as a continuous variable. Accordingly, there is no reason to outright reject median splits, and oftentimes the median split may be preferred as more parsimonious.

Highlights • We show that the categorical rejection of median splits is incorrect. • We show when median splits are appropriate, and when they are not. • When median splits are appropriate, they may be preferred as more parsimonious.

Keywords: Median split, Median-split, Dichotomization, Categorization

Suggested Citation

Iacobucci, Dawn and Iacobucci, Dawn and Posavac, Steven S. and Kardes, Frank R. and Schneider, Matthew and Popovich, Deidre, Toward a More Nuanced Understanding of the Statistical Properties of a Median Split (2015). Journal of Consumer Psychology 25, 4 (2015) 652-665, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2663427 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2663427

Dawn Iacobucci (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Steven S. Posavac

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States
615-322-0456 (Phone)

Frank R. Kardes

University of Cincinnati - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

Matthew Schneider

Northwestern University - Integrated Marketing Communications Program ( email )

Evanston, IL
United States

Deidre Popovich

Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

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