# What type of correlation coefficient should I be using?

Pearson correlation coefficients are used to determine the linear correlation between two continuous variables. The Pearson correlation coefficient can range from -1 to 1, with negative values indicative of an inverse relationship between the two variables, and positive values indicative of a positive relationship between the two variables. The square of the Pearson correlation coefficient-the coefficient of determination-is the proportion of variation in one variable that is attributable to the second variable.

What happens, though, when we do not expect linear relationships, or we do not have continuous (interval/ratio) variables? The Spearman correlation coefficient can be used to determine the correlation, whether linear or non-linear, between the two variables of interest. The interpretation of the Spearman coefficient is only with regard as to whether a relationship exists, but does not indicate whether the association is linear. The Spearman coefficient has a range of -1 to 1, with negative values indicative of an inverse relationship between the two variables, and positive values indicative of a positive relationship between the two variables.

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