Sign test - overview

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Sign test
Binomial test for a single proportion
One sample Wilcoxon signed-rank test
McNemar's test
Two way ANOVA
Independent variableIndependent variableIndependent variableIndependent variableIndependent/grouping variables
2 paired groupsNoneNone2 paired groupsTwo categorical, the first with $I$ independent groups and the second with $J$ independent groups ($I \geqslant 2$, $J \geqslant 2$)
Dependent variableDependent variableDependent variableDependent variableDependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne categorical with 2 independent groupsOne of ordinal levelOne categorical with 2 independent groupsOne quantitative of interval or ratio level
Null hypothesisNull hypothesisNull hypothesisNull hypothesisNull hypothesis
  • H0: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) = P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
If the dependent variable is measured on a continuous scale, this can also be formulated as:
  • H0: the population median of the difference scores is equal to zero
A difference score is the difference between the first score of a pair and the second score of a pair.
H0: $\pi = \pi_0$

Here $\pi$ is the population proportion of 'successes', and $\pi_0$ is the population proportion of successes according to the null hypothesis.
H0: $m = m_0$

Here $m$ is the population median, and $m_0$ is the population median according to the null hypothesis.

Let's say that the scores on the dependent variable are scored 0 and 1. Then for each pair of scores, the data allow four options:

  1. First score of pair is 0, second score of pair is 0
  2. First score of pair is 0, second score of pair is 1 (switched)
  3. First score of pair is 1, second score of pair is 0 (switched)
  4. First score of pair is 1, second score of pair is 1
The null hypothesis H0 is that for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 0 while second score of pair is 1) = P(first score of pair is 1 while second score of pair is 0). That is, the probability that a pair of scores switches from 0 to 1 is the same as the probability that a pair of scores switches from 1 to 0.

Other formulations of the null hypothesis are:

  • H0: $\pi_1 = \pi_2$, where $\pi_1$ is the population proportion of ones for the first paired group and $\pi_2$ is the population proportion of ones for the second paired group
  • H0: for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 1) = P(second score of pair is 1)

ANOVA $F$ tests:
  • H0 for main and interaction effects together (model): no main effects and interaction effect
  • H0 for independent variable A: no main effect for A
  • H0 for independent variable B: no main effect for B
  • H0 for the interaction term: no interaction effect between A and B
Like in one way ANOVA, we can also perform $t$ tests for specific contrasts and multiple comparisons. This is more advanced stuff.
Alternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesisAlternative hypothesis
  • H1 two sided: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) $\neq$ P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
  • H1 right sided: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) > P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
  • H1 left sided: P(first score of a pair exceeds second score of a pair) < P(second score of a pair exceeds first score of a pair)
If the dependent variable is measured on a continuous scale, this can also be formulated as:
  • H1 two sided: the population median of the difference scores is different from zero
  • H1 right sided: the population median of the difference scores is larger than zero
  • H1 left sided: the population median of the difference scores is smaller than zero
H1 two sided: $\pi \neq \pi_0$
H1 right sided: $\pi > \pi_0$
H1 left sided: $\pi < \pi_0$
H1 two sided: $m \neq m_0$
H1 right sided: $m > m_0$
H1 left sided: $m < m_0$

The alternative hypothesis H1 is that for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 0 while second score of pair is 1) $\neq$ P(first score of pair is 1 while second score of pair is 0). That is, the probability that a pair of scores switches from 0 to 1 is not the same as the probability that a pair of scores switches from 1 to 0.

Other formulations of the alternative hypothesis are:

  • H1: $\pi_1 \neq \pi_2$
  • H1: for each pair of scores, P(first score of pair is 1) $\neq$ P(second score of pair is 1)

ANOVA $F$ tests:
  • H1 for main and interaction effects together (model): there is a main effect for A, and/or for B, and/or an interaction effect
  • H1 for independent variable A: there is a main effect for A
  • H1 for independent variable B: there is a main effect for B
  • H1 for the interaction term: there is an interaction effect between A and B
AssumptionsAssumptionsAssumptionsAssumptionsAssumptions
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
  • The population distribution of the scores is symmetric
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
  • Within each of the $I \times J$ populations, the scores on the dependent variable are normally distributed
  • The standard deviation of the scores on the dependent variable is the same in each of the $I \times J$ populations
  • For each of the $I \times J$ groups, the sample is an independent and simple random sample from the population defined by that group. That is, within and between groups, observations are independent of one another
  • Equal sample sizes for each group make the interpretation of the ANOVA output easier (unequal sample sizes result in overlap in the sum of squares; this is advanced stuff)
Test statisticTest statisticTest statisticTest statisticTest statistic
$W = $ number of difference scores that is larger than 0$X$ = number of successes in the sampleTwo different types of test statistics can be used, but both will result in the same test outcome. We will denote the first option the $W_1$ statistic (also known as the $T$ statistic), and the second option the $W_2$ statistic. In order to compute each of the test statistics, follow the steps below:
  1. For each subject, compute the sign of the difference score $\mbox{sign}_d = \mbox{sgn}(\mbox{score} - m_0)$. The sign is 1 if the difference is larger than zero, -1 if the diffence is smaller than zero, and 0 if the difference is equal to zero.
  2. For each subject, compute the absolute value of the difference score $|\mbox{score} - m_0|$.
  3. Exclude subjects with a difference score of zero. This leaves us with a remaining number of difference scores equal to $N_r$.
  4. Assign ranks $R_d$ to the $N_r$ remaining absolute difference scores. The smallest absolute difference score corresponds to a rank score of 1, and the largest absolute difference score corresponds to a rank score of $N_r$. If there are ties, assign them the average of the ranks they occupy.
Then compute the test statistic:

  • $W_1 = \sum\, R_d^{+}$
    or
    $W_1 = \sum\, R_d^{-}$
    That is, sum all ranks corresponding to a positive difference or sum all ranks corresponding to a negative difference. Theoratically, both definitions will result in the same test outcome. However:
    • Tables with critical values for $W_1$ are usually based on the smaller of $\sum\, R_d^{+}$ and $\sum\, R_d^{-}$. So if you are using such a table, pick the smaller one.
    • If you are using the normal approximation to find the $p$ value, it makes things most straightforward if you use $W_1 = \sum\, R_d^{+}$ (if you use $W_1 = \sum\, R_d^{-}$, the right and left sided alternative hypotheses 'flip').
  • $W_2 = \sum\, \mbox{sign}_d \times R_d$
    That is, for each remaining difference score, multiply the rank of the absolute difference score by the sign of the difference score, and then sum all of the products.
$X^2 = \dfrac{(b - c)^2}{b + c}$
Here $b$ is the number of pairs in the sample for which the first score is 0 while the second score is 1, and $c$ is the number of pairs in the sample for which the first score is 1 while the second score is 0.
For main and interaction effects together (model):
  • $F = \dfrac{\mbox{mean square model}}{\mbox{mean square error}}$
For independent variable A:
  • $F = \dfrac{\mbox{mean square A}}{\mbox{mean square error}}$
For independent variable B:
  • $F = \dfrac{\mbox{mean square B}}{\mbox{mean square error}}$
For the interaction term:
  • $F = \dfrac{\mbox{mean square interaction}}{\mbox{mean square error}}$
Note: mean square error is also known as mean square residual or mean square within.
n.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.Pooled standard deviation
----$ \begin{aligned} s_p &= \sqrt{\dfrac{\sum\nolimits_{subjects} (\mbox{subject's score} - \mbox{its group mean})^2}{N - (I \times J)}}\\ &= \sqrt{\dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares error}}{\mbox{degrees of freedom error}}}\\ &= \sqrt{\mbox{mean square error}} \end{aligned} $
Sampling distribution of $W$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $X$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $W_1$ and of $W_2$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $X^2$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $F$ if H0 were true
The exact distribution of $W$ under the null hypothesis is the Binomial($n$, $P$) distribution, with $n =$ number of positive differences $+$ number of negative differences, and $P = 0.5$.

If $n$ is large, $W$ is approximately normally distributed under the null hypothesis, with mean $nP = n \times 0.5$ and standard deviation $\sqrt{nP(1-P)} = \sqrt{n \times 0.5(1 - 0.5)}$. Hence, if $n$ is large, the standardized test statistic $$z = \frac{W - n \times 0.5}{\sqrt{n \times 0.5(1 - 0.5)}}$$ follows approximately the standard normal distribution if the null hypothesis were true.
Binomial($n$, $P$) distribution.

Here $n = N$ (total sample size), and $P = \pi_0$ (population proportion according to the null hypothesis).
Sampling distribution of $W_1$:
If $N_r$ is large, $W_1$ is approximately normally distributed with mean $\mu_{W_1}$ and standard deviation $\sigma_{W_1}$ if the null hypothesis were true. Here $$\mu_{W_1} = \frac{N_r(N_r + 1)}{4}$$ $$\sigma_{W_1} = \sqrt{\frac{N_r(N_r + 1)(2N_r + 1)}{24}}$$ Hence, if $N_r$ is large, the standardized test statistic $$z = \frac{W_1 - \mu_{W_1}}{\sigma_{W_1}}$$ follows approximately the standard normal distribution if the null hypothesis were true.

Sampling distribution of $W_2$:
If $N_r$ is large, $W_2$ is approximately normally distributed with mean $0$ and standard deviation $\sigma_{W_2}$ if the null hypothesis were true. Here $$\sigma_{W_2} = \sqrt{\frac{N_r(N_r + 1)(2N_r + 1)}{6}}$$ Hence, if $N_r$ is large, the standardized test statistic $$z = \frac{W_2}{\sigma_{W_2}}$$ follows approximately the standard normal distribution if the null hypothesis were true.

If $N_r$ is small, the exact distribution of $W_1$ or $W_2$ should be used.

Note: if ties are present in the data, the formula for the standard deviations $\sigma_{W_1}$ and $\sigma_{W_2}$ is more complicated.

If $b + c$ is large enough (say, > 20), approximately the chi-squared distribution with 1 degree of freedom.

If $b + c$ is small, the Binomial($n$, $P$) distribution should be used, with $n = b + c$ and $P = 0.5$. In that case the test statistic becomes equal to $b$.

For main and interaction effects together (model):
  • $F$ distribution with $(I - 1) + (J - 1) + (I - 1) \times (J - 1)$ (df model, numerator) and $N - (I \times J)$ (df error, denominator) degrees of freedom
For independent variable A:
  • $F$ distribution with $I - 1$ (df A, numerator) and $N - (I \times J)$ (df error, denominator) degrees of freedom
For independent variable B:
  • $F$ distribution with $J - 1$ (df B, numerator) and $N - (I \times J)$ (df error, denominator) degrees of freedom
For the interaction term:
  • $F$ distribution with $(I - 1) \times (J - 1)$ (df interaction, numerator) and $N - (I \times J)$ (df error, denominator) degrees of freedom
Here $N$ is the total sample size.
Significant?Significant?Significant?Significant?Significant?
If $n$ is small, the table for the binomial distribution should be used:
Two sided:
  • Check if $W$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find two sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $W$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Right sided:
  • Check if $W$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find right sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $W$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Left sided:
  • Check if $W$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find left sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $W$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$

If $n$ is large, the table for standard normal probabilities can be used:
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
Two sided:
  • Check if $X$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find two sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $X$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Right sided:
  • Check if $X$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find right sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $X$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
Left sided:
  • Check if $X$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find left sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $X$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
For large samples, the table for standard normal probabilities can be used:
Two sided: Right sided: Left sided:
For test statistic $X^2$:
  • Check if $X^2$ observed in sample is equal to or larger than critical value $X^{2*}$ or
  • Find $p$ value corresponding to observed $X^2$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
If $b + c$ is small, the table for the binomial distribution should be used, with as test statistic $b$:
  • Check if $b$ observed in sample is in the rejection region or
  • Find two sided $p$ value corresponding to observed $b$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
  • Check if $F$ observed in sample is equal to or larger than critical value $F^*$ or
  • Find $p$ value corresponding to observed $F$ and check if it is equal to or smaller than $\alpha$
n.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.Effect size
----
  • Proportion variance explained $R^2$:
    Proportion variance of the dependent variable $y$ explained by the independent variables and the interaction effect together:
    $$ \begin{align} R^2 &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares model}}{\mbox{sum of squares total}} \end{align} $$ $R^2$ is the proportion variance explained in the sample. It is a positively biased estimate of the proportion variance explained in the population.

  • Proportion variance explained $\eta^2$:
    Proportion variance of the dependent variable $y$ explained by an independent variable or interaction effect:
    $$ \begin{align} \eta^2_A &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares A}}{\mbox{sum of squares total}}\\ \\ \eta^2_B &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares B}}{\mbox{sum of squares total}}\\ \\ \eta^2_{int} &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares int}}{\mbox{sum of squares total}} \end{align} $$ $\eta^2$ is the proportion variance explained in the sample. It is a positively biased estimate of the proportion variance explained in the population.

  • Proportion variance explained $\omega^2$:
    Corrects for the positive bias in $\eta^2$ and is equal to:
    $$ \begin{align} \omega^2_A &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares A} - \mbox{degrees of freedom A} \times \mbox{mean square error}}{\mbox{sum of squares total} + \mbox{mean square error}}\\ \\ \omega^2_B &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares B} - \mbox{degrees of freedom B} \times \mbox{mean square error}}{\mbox{sum of squares total} + \mbox{mean square error}}\\ \\ \omega^2_{int} &= \dfrac{\mbox{sum of squares int} - \mbox{degrees of freedom int} \times \mbox{mean square error}}{\mbox{sum of squares total} + \mbox{mean square error}}\\ \end{align} $$ $\omega^2$ is a better estimate of the explained variance in the population than $\eta^2$. Only for balanced designs (equal sample sizes).

  • Proportion variance explained $\eta^2_{partial}$: $$ \begin{align} \eta^2_{partial\,A} &= \frac{\mbox{sum of squares A}}{\mbox{sum of squares A} + \mbox{sum of squares error}}\\ \\ \eta^2_{partial\,B} &= \frac{\mbox{sum of squares B}}{\mbox{sum of squares B} + \mbox{sum of squares error}}\\ \\ \eta^2_{partial\,int} &= \frac{\mbox{sum of squares int}}{\mbox{sum of squares int} + \mbox{sum of squares error}} \end{align} $$
n.a.n.a.n.a.n.a.ANOVA table
----
two way ANOVA table
Equivalent ton.a.n.a.Equivalent toEquivalent to
Two sided sign test is equivalent to --OLS regression with two categorical independent variables and the interaction term, transformed into $(I - 1)$ + $(J - 1)$ + $(I - 1) \times (J - 1)$ code variables.
Example contextExample contextExample contextExample contextExample context
Do people tend to score higher on mental health after a mindfulness course?Is the proportion of smokers amongst office workers different from $\pi_0 = 0.2$?Is the median mental health score of office workers different from $m_0 = 50$?Does a tv documentary about spiders change whether people are afraid (yes/no) of spiders?Is the average mental health score different between people from a low, moderate, and high economic class? And is the average mental health score different between men and women? And is there an interaction effect between economic class and gender?
SPSSSPSSSPSSSPSSSPSS
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > 2 Related Samples...
  • Put the two paired variables in the boxes below Variable 1 and Variable 2
  • Under Test Type, select the Sign test
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > Binomial...
  • Put your dichotomous variable in the box below Test Variable List
  • Fill in the value for $\pi_0$ in the box next to Test Proportion
Specify the measurement level of your variable on the Variable View tab, in the column named Measure. Then go to:

Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > One Sample...
  • On the Objective tab, choose Customize Analysis
  • On the Fields tab, specify the variable for which you want to compute the Wilcoxon signed-rank test
  • On the Settings tab, choose Customize tests and check the box for 'Compare median to hypothesized (Wilcoxon signed-rank test)'. Fill in your $m_0$ in the box next to Hypothesized median
  • Click Run
  • Double click on the output table to see the full results
Analyze > Nonparametric Tests > Legacy Dialogs > 2 Related Samples...
  • Put the two paired variables in the boxes below Variable 1 and Variable 2
  • Under Test Type, select the McNemar test
Analyze > General Linear Model > Univariate...
  • Put your dependent (quantitative) variable in the box below Dependent Variable and your two independent (grouping) variables in the box below Fixed Factor(s)
JamoviJamoviJamoviJamoviJamovi
Jamovi does not have a specific option for the sign test. However, you can do the Friedman test instead. The $p$ value resulting from this Friedman test is equivalent to the two sided $p$ value that would have resulted from the sign test. Go to:

ANOVA > Repeated Measures ANOVA - Friedman
  • Put the two paired variables in the box below Measures
Frequencies > 2 Outcomes - Binomial test
  • Put your dichotomous variable in the white box at the right
  • Fill in the value for $\pi_0$ in the box next to Test value
  • Under Hypothesis, select your alternative hypothesis
T-Tests > One Sample T-Test
  • Put your variable in the box below Dependent Variables
  • Under Tests, select Wilcoxon rank
  • Under Hypothesis, fill in the value for $m_0$ in the box next to Test Value, and select your alternative hypothesis
Frequencies > Paired Samples - McNemar test
  • Put one of the two paired variables in the box below Rows and the other paired variable in the box below Columns
ANOVA > ANOVA
  • Put your dependent (quantitative) variable in the box below Dependent Variable and your two independent (grouping) variables in the box below Fixed Factors
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