, Volume 59, Issue 3-4, pp 213-229,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 28 Jun 2011

The Analysis of Association Between Traits When Differences Between Trait States Matter


Because of their elementary significance in almost all fields of science, measures of association between two variables or traits are abundant and multiform. One aspect of association that is of considerable interest, especially in population genetics and ecology, seems to be widely ignored. This aspect concerns association between complex traits that show variable and arbitrarily defined state differences. Among such traits are genetic characters controlled by many and potentially polyploid loci, species characteristics, and environmental variables, all of which may be mutually and asymmetrically associated. A concept of directed association of one trait with another is developed here that relies solely on difference measures between the states of a trait. Associations are considered at three levels: between individual states of two variables, between an individual state of one variable and the totality of the other variable, and between two variables. Relations to known concepts of association are identified. In particular, measures at the latter two levels turn out to be interpretable as measures of differentiation. Examples are given for areas of application (search for functional relationships, distribution of variation over populations, genomic associations, spatiogenetic structure).