What Is an Independent Variable? Definition and Examples


The independent variable is recorded on the x-axis of a graph. The effect on the dependent variable is recorded on the y-axis.

The independent variable is recorded on the x-axis of a graph. The effect on the dependent variable is recorded on the y-axis.

The independent variable is the variable that is controlled or changed in a scientific experiment to test its effect on the dependent variable. It doesn’t depend on another variable and isn’t changed by any factors an experimenter is trying to measure. The independent variable is denoted by the letter x in an experiment or graph.

INDEPENDENT VARIABLE EXAMPLE

Two classic examples of independent variables are age and time. They may be measured, but not controlled. In experiments, even if measured time isn’t the variable, it may relate to duration or intensity.

For example, a scientist is testing the effect of light and dark on the behavior of moths by turning a light on and off. The independent variable is the amount of light and the moth’s reaction is the dependent variable.

For another example, say you are measuring whether amount of sleep affects test scores. The hours of sleep would be the independent variable while the test scores would be dependent variable.

A change in the independent variable directly causes a change in the dependent variable. If you have a hypothesis written such that you’re looking at whether affects y, the x is always the independent variable and the y is the dependent variable.

GRAPHING THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLE

If the dependent and independent variables are plotted on a graph, the x-axis would be the independent variable and the y-axis would be the dependent variable. You can remember this using the DRY MIX acronym, where DRY means dependent or responsive variable is on the y-axis, while MIX means the manipulated or independent variable is on the x-axis.

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