Cohen’s d (wiki) is a statistic used to indicate the standardised difference between two means. Resarchers often use it to compare the averages between groups, for instance to determine that there are higher outcomes values in a experimental group than in a control group.

Researchers often use general guidelines to determine the size of an effect. Looking at Cohen’s d, psychologists often consider effects to be small when Cohen’s d is between 0.2 or 0.3, medium effects (whatever that may mean) are assumed for values around 0.5, and values of Cohen’s d larger than 0.8 would depict large effects (e.g., University of Bath).

By the way, Kristoffer hosts many other interesting visualization tools (most made with JavaScript’s D3 library) on statistics and statistical phenomena on his website, have a look!

Propensity score matching (wiki) is a statistical matching technique that attempts to estimate the effect of a treatment (e.g., intervention) by accounting for the factors that predict whether an individual would be eligble for receiving the treatment. The wikipedia page provides a good example setting:

Say we are interested in the effects of smoking on health. Here, smoking would be considered the treatment, and the ‘treated’ are simply those who smoke. In order to find a cause-effect relationship, we would need to run an experiment and randomly assign people to smoking and non-smoking conditions. Of course such experiments would be unfeasible and/or unethical, as we can’t ask/force people to smoke when we suspect it may do harm. We will need to work with observational data instead. Here, we estimate the treatment effect by simply comparing health outcomes (e.g., rate of cancer) between those who smoked and did not smoke. However, this estimation would be biased by any factors that predict smoking (e.g., social economic status). Propensity score matching attempts to control for these differences (i.e., biases) by making the comparison groups (i.e., smoking and non-smoking) more comparable.

Lucy D’Agostino McGowan is a post-doc at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-founder of R-Ladies Nashville. She wrote a very nice blog explaining what propensity score matching is and showing how to apply it to your dataset in R. Lucy demonstrates how you can use propensity scores to weight your observations in such a way that accounts for the factors that correlate with receiving a treatment. Moreover, her explainations are strenghtened by nice visuals that intuitively demonstrate what the weighting does to the “pseudo-populations” used to estimate the treatment effect.