Sign test - overview

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Sign test
One sample $z$ test for the mean
Independent variableIndependent variable
2 paired groupsNone
Dependent variableDependent variable
One of ordinal levelOne quantitative of interval or ratio level
Null 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: $\mu = \mu_0$

Here $\mu$ is the population mean, and $\mu_0$ is the population mean according to the null hypothesis.
Alternative 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: $\mu \neq \mu_0$
H1 right sided: $\mu > \mu_0$
H1 left sided: $\mu < \mu_0$
AssumptionsAssumptions
  • Sample of pairs is a simple random sample from the population of pairs. That is, pairs are independent of one another
  • Scores are normally distributed in the population
  • Population standard deviation $\sigma$ is known
  • Sample is a simple random sample from the population. That is, observations are independent of one another
Test statisticTest statistic
$W = $ number of difference scores that is larger than 0$z = \dfrac{\bar{y} - \mu_0}{\sigma / \sqrt{N}}$
Here $\bar{y}$ is the sample mean, $\mu_0$ is the population mean according to the null hypothesis, $\sigma$ is the population standard deviation, and $N$ is the sample size.

The denominator $\sigma / \sqrt{N}$ is the standard deviation of the sampling distribution of $\bar{y}$. The $z$ value indicates how many of these standard deviations $\bar{y}$ is removed from $\mu_0$.
Sampling distribution of $W$ if H0 were trueSampling distribution of $z$ 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.
Standard normal distribution
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: Right sided: Left sided:
n.a.$C\%$ confidence interval for $\mu$
-$\bar{y} \pm z^* \times \dfrac{\sigma}{\sqrt{N}}$
where the critical value $z^*$ is the value under the normal curve with the area $C / 100$ between $-z^*$ and $z^*$ (e.g. $z^*$ = 1.96 for a 95% confidence interval).

The confidence interval for $\mu$ can also be used as significance test.
n.a.Effect size
-Cohen's $d$:
Standardized difference between the sample mean and $\mu_0$: $$d = \frac{\bar{y} - \mu_0}{\sigma}$$ Cohen's $d$ indicates how many standard deviations $\sigma$ the sample mean $\bar{y}$ is removed from $\mu_0.$
n.a.Visual representation
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One sample z test
Equivalent ton.a.
Two sided sign test is equivalent to -
Example contextExample context
Do people tend to score higher on mental health after a mindfulness course?Is the average mental health score of office workers different from $\mu_0 = 50$? Assume that the standard deviation of the mental health scores in the population is $\sigma = 3.$
SPSSn.a.
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
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Jamovin.a.
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
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Practice questionsPractice questions