The three measures of central tendency are mean, median, and mode. Each one is calculated a little different and is appropriate in different circumstances.
Mean – Commonly known as an average, the mean is calculated by adding all scores and dividing by the number of scores. This is the balancing point for a distribution and is the preferred measure of central tendency in most cases with numerical scores.
Median – This midpoint of a distribution is the center value when scores are ordered from smallest to largest. The median is the appropriate measure of tendency for distributions with extreme scores because those scores would skew the value of the mean. The median is also preferred for ordinal scales.
Mode – Appropriate for use with nominal scales, the mode is the score that occurs most frequently in a distribution.
The mean and median can be found using SPSS. To do so, click Analyze, click Means, highlight the scores, then click Cell Statistics. Using these steps, SPSS will compute the mean, median, sum, and number of scores.
Central tendencies are important for researchers because it allows then to describe, summarize, and compare sets of data they collect as the result of an experiment (Gravetter et al., 2021).
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