At the Center of It All

We have now discussed three statistical measures: mode, median, and mean. The concept and uses of mode are obvious. It answers the question, "Which object appears the most often in our data set?"

Median and mean are a little more slippery. Because both of them measure a type of "average" score, we call them measures of central tendency, or measures of the "center" of the scores in a given data set (actually, the mode is also considered a measure of central tendency, but we are more interested in the median and the mean).

We now have two perfectly good measures for this, but when do we use each one and why? Let's attack this question by looking at just what makes these two measures different from one another.

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