Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 798–807 | Cite as

Current misuses of multiple regression for investigating bivariate hypotheses: an example from the organizational domain

  • Thomas A. O’Neill
  • Matthew J. W. McLarnon
  • Travis J. Schneider
  • Robert C. Gardner


By definition, multiple regression (MR) considers more than one predictor variable, and each variable’s beta will depend on both its correlation with the criterion and its correlation with the other predictor(s). Despite ad nauseam coverage of this characteristic in organizational psychology and statistical texts, researchers’ applications of MR in bivariate hypothesis testing has been the subject of recent and renewed interest. Accordingly, we conducted a targeted survey of the literature by coding articles, covering a five-year span from two top-tier organizational journals, that employed MR for testing bivariate relations. The results suggest that MR coefficients, rather than correlation coefficients, were most common for testing hypotheses of bivariate relations, yet supporting theoretical rationales were rarely offered. Regarding the potential impact on scientific advancement, in almost half of the articles reviewed (44 %), at least one conclusion of each study (i.e., that the hypothesis was or was not supported) would have been different, depending on the author’s use of correlation or beta to test the bivariate hypothesis. It follows that inappropriate decisions to interpret the correlation versus the beta will affect the accumulation of consistent and replicable scientific evidence. We conclude with recommendations for improving bivariate hypothesis testing.


Multiple regression Organizational science Research methods Beta Correlation 


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas A. O’Neill
    • 1
  • Matthew J. W. McLarnon
    • 2
  • Travis J. Schneider
    • 2
  • Robert C. Gardner
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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