### Beautiful Error Bars in R

One of the reasons why I haven't made the switch from R to SPSS is R's lack of proper error bar graphs. I use them frequently because they are easy to interpret: If you plot the means of several groups of participants in one error bar chart and scale the error bars to a length of one standard measurement error, non-overlapping error bars indicate a significant difference between the according means. In fact, the APA advocates the use of error bars for reporting results since 2005 [1]. This way of reporting differences in means is also called "Inference by Eye" [1].

After my rants about SPSS, my wise R mentor, Stephan Kolassa, pointed me at the gplots library that features a good function for drawing error bars in R: plotCI(). Stephan also pointed me to Rseek.org, an excellent search engine for R related queries. I fiddled with Stephan's example code in order to reproduce my SPSS clustered error-bar chart from last week's post on stereotype threat in complex problem solving:

And this is how I got in in R:

I like it very much; the only thing I need to work out is how to offset the bars in the same conditions so that overlapping error bars don't actually overlap but are drawn next to each other with a few pixels between them.

If you would like to try this out for yourself, here is the R code that produces the image above:

# Clustered Error Bar for Groups of Cases.

# Example: Experimental Condition (Stereotype Threat Yes/No) x Gender (Male / Female)

# The following values would be calculated from data and are set fixed now for

# code reproduction

means.females <- c(0.08306698, -0.83376319)

stderr.females <- c(0.13655378, 0.06973371)

names(means.females) <- c("No","Yes")

names(stderr.females) <- c("No","Yes")

means.males <- c(0.4942997, 0.2845608)

stderr.males <- c(0.07493673, 0.18479661)

names(means.males) <- c("No","Yes")

names(stderr.males) <- c("No","Yes")

# Error Bar Plot

library (gplots)

# Draw the error bar for female experiment participants:

plotCI(x = means.females, uiw = stderr.females, lty = 2, xaxt ="n", xlim = c(0.5,2.5), ylim = c(-1,1), gap = 0, ylab="Microworld Performance (Z Score)", xlab="Stereotype Threat", main = "Microworld performance over experimental conditions")

# Add the males to the existing plot

plotCI(x = means.males, uiw = stderr.males, lty = 1, xaxt ="n", xlim = c(0.5,2.5), ylim = c(-1,1), gap = 0, add = TRUE)

# Draw the x-axis (omitted above)

axis(side = 1, at = 1:2, labels = names(stderr.males), cex = 0.7)

# Add legend for male and female participants

legend(2,1,legend=c("Male","Female"),lty=1:2)

[1] Cumming, G., & Finch, S. (2005). Inference by Eye: Confidence Intervals and How to Read Pictures of Data. American Psychologist, 60(2), 170–180.

After my rants about SPSS, my wise R mentor, Stephan Kolassa, pointed me at the gplots library that features a good function for drawing error bars in R: plotCI(). Stephan also pointed me to Rseek.org, an excellent search engine for R related queries. I fiddled with Stephan's example code in order to reproduce my SPSS clustered error-bar chart from last week's post on stereotype threat in complex problem solving:

And this is how I got in in R:

I like it very much; the only thing I need to work out is how to offset the bars in the same conditions so that overlapping error bars don't actually overlap but are drawn next to each other with a few pixels between them.

If you would like to try this out for yourself, here is the R code that produces the image above:

# Clustered Error Bar for Groups of Cases.

# Example: Experimental Condition (Stereotype Threat Yes/No) x Gender (Male / Female)

# The following values would be calculated from data and are set fixed now for

# code reproduction

means.females <- c(0.08306698, -0.83376319)

stderr.females <- c(0.13655378, 0.06973371)

names(means.females) <- c("No","Yes")

names(stderr.females) <- c("No","Yes")

means.males <- c(0.4942997, 0.2845608)

stderr.males <- c(0.07493673, 0.18479661)

names(means.males) <- c("No","Yes")

names(stderr.males) <- c("No","Yes")

# Error Bar Plot

library (gplots)

# Draw the error bar for female experiment participants:

plotCI(x = means.females, uiw = stderr.females, lty = 2, xaxt ="n", xlim = c(0.5,2.5), ylim = c(-1,1), gap = 0, ylab="Microworld Performance (Z Score)", xlab="Stereotype Threat", main = "Microworld performance over experimental conditions")

# Add the males to the existing plot

plotCI(x = means.males, uiw = stderr.males, lty = 1, xaxt ="n", xlim = c(0.5,2.5), ylim = c(-1,1), gap = 0, add = TRUE)

# Draw the x-axis (omitted above)

axis(side = 1, at = 1:2, labels = names(stderr.males), cex = 0.7)

# Add legend for male and female participants

legend(2,1,legend=c("Male","Female"),lty=1:2)

[1] Cumming, G., & Finch, S. (2005). Inference by Eye: Confidence Intervals and How to Read Pictures of Data. American Psychologist, 60(2), 170–180.

Labels: R, spss, statistics

## 14 Comments:

Try defining an offset and then plotting with x values jittered by the offset, e.g.,

offset <- 0.05

plotCI(x=(1:2)+offset, y = means.females, uiw = stderr.females, lty = 2, xaxt="n", xlim = c(0.5,2.5), ylim = c(-1,1), gap = 0, ylab="Microworld Performance (Z Score)", xlab="Stereotype Threat", main = "Microworld performance over experimental conditions")

plotCI(x=(1:2)-offset, y = means.males, uiw = stderr.males, lty = 1, xaxt ="n", xlim = c(0.5,2.5), ylim = c(-1,1), gap = 0, add = TRUE)

I was slightly thrown by your using x to contain the means (which I would rather give to R as y values...).

Good luck with R! And thanks for the compliment :-)

I think that perhaps you would like to know that SPSS has a plug-in to access R programs from SPSS syntax files...

Or even more simply with ggplot2:

# I think this is a much more natural way

# of storing the data

df <- data.frame(

gender = rep(c("female", "male"), each = 2),

threat = rep(c("no", "yes"), 2),

mean = c(means.females, means.males),

se = c(stderr.females, stderr.males)

)

library(ggplot2)

# then the description of the plot is natural

qplot(threat, mean, data = df, colour = gender) +

geom_linerange(aes(ymin = mean - se, ymax = mean + se))

# Oops, I see you wanted errorbars and dodging:

qplot(threat, mean, data = df, colour = gender) +

geom_errorbar(aes(ymin = mean - se, ymax = mean + se), width = 0.3)

# and if you want them dodged side-by-side

dodge <- position_dodge(width = 0.3)

qplot(threat, mean, data = df, colour = gender, position = dodge) +

geom_errorbar(aes(ymin = mean - se, ymax = mean + se),

width = 0.3, position = dodge)

This post and the associated comments were very helpful - thank you!

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Thank you very much.

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Hey, thanks a lot for this helpful script! I'm using it in a master's thesis, how would you like to be cited/referenced?

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