Histograms help us to visualize the distribution of data and estimate the probability distribution of a continuous variable. In order for us to create reliable visualizations of these distributions, we must be able to procure reliable results for the data during experimentation. A method that significantly contributes to our success in this matter is the controlling of variables.
In statistics, variables refer to measurable attributes, as these typically vary over time or between individuals. Variables can be discrete (taking values from a finite or countable set), continuous (having a continuous distribution function), or neither. For instance, temperature is a continuous variable, while the number of legs of an animal is a discrete variable.
In causal models, a distinction is made between "independent variables" and "dependent variables," the latter being expected to vary in value in response to changes in the former. In other words, an independent variable is presumed to potentially affect a dependent one. In experiments, independent variables include factors that can be altered or chosen by the researcher independent of other factors.
There are also quasi-independent variables, which are used by researchers to group things without affecting the variable itself. For example, to separate people into groups by their sex does not change whether they are male or female. Also, a researcher may separate people, arbitrarily, on the amount of coffee they drank before beginning an experiment.
While independent variables can refer to quantities and qualities that are under experimental control, they can also include extraneous factors that influence results in a confusing or undesired manner. In statistics the technique to work this out is called correlation.
In a scientific experiment measuring the effect of one or more independent variables on a dependent variable, controlling for a variable is a method of reducing the confounding effect of variations in a third variable that may also affect the value of the dependent variable. For example, in an experiment to determine the effect of nutrition (the independent variable) on organism growth (the dependent variable), the age of the organism (the third variable) needs to be controlled for, since the effect may also depend on the age of an individual organism.
The essence of the method is to ensure that comparisons between the control group and the experimental group are only made for groups or subgroups for which the variable to be controlled has the same statistical distribution. A common way to achieve this is to partition the groups into subgroups whose members have (nearly) the same value for the controlled variable.
Controlling for a variable is also a term used in statistical data analysis when inferences may need to be made for the relationships within one set of variables, given that some of these relationships may spuriously reflect relationships to variables in another set. This is broadly equivalent to conditioning on the variables in the second set. Such analyses may be described as "controlling for variable
Controlling for Variables
Controlling is very important in experimentation to ensure reliable results. For example, in an experiment to see which type of vinegar displays the greatest reaction to baking soda, the brand of baking soda should be controlled.