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To center or not to center? Investigating inertia with a multilevel autoregressive model

By Ellen L. Hamaker and Raoul P. P. P. Grasman


Whether level 1 predictors should be centered per cluster has received considerable attention in the multilevel literature. While most agree that there is no one preferred approach, it has also been argued that cluster mean centering is desirable when the within-cluster slope and the between-cluster slope are expected to deviate, and the main interest is in the within-cluster slope. However, we show in a series of simulations that if one has a multilevel autoregressive model in which the level 1 predictor is the lagged outcome variable (i.e., the outcome variable at the previous occasion), cluster mean centering will in general lead to a downward bias in the parameter estimate of the within-cluster slope (i.e., the autoregressive relationship). This is particularly relevant if the main question is whether there is on average an autoregressive effect. Nonetheless, we show that if the main interest is in estimating the effect of a level 2 predictor on the autoregressive parameter (i.e., a cross-level interaction), cluster mean centering should be preferred over other forms of centering. Hence, researchers should be clear on what is considered the main goal of their study, and base their choice of centering method on this when using a multilevel autoregressive model

Topics: dynamics, Inertia, Multilevel Models, autoregressive models, Centering, Psychology, BF1-990
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2015
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01492
OAI identifier: oai:doaj.org/article:088cf4c0813940e5ab08268ccdb0d69b
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