This page tries to answer some of the questions that I get asked most often about how to use the visreg package. If you have a question that does not appear below, I can be reached at <[email protected]>.
What is the difference between 'conditional' and 'contrast' plots?
Suppose our data looked like:
we fit a model with
fit <- lm(SBP~Sex+Age)
and we want to plot the relationship between Age and SBP. A 'conditional' plot illustrates the relationship between the two, conditional on the sex being, say, Male (the default in visreg is to choose the most common category).
The 'contrast' plot in visreg, on the other hand, illustrates the effect on SBP of a change in age – the default in visreg is to use the mean age as the reference point for this change. Since the above model does not have an interaction, this effect will be the same for men and women, and thus does not require you to specify a sex for the plot.
Both conditional and contrast plots answer subtly different questions, and both are useful in different situations.
Can visreg can be used for mixed models (i.e., from the 'nlme' or 'lme4' packages)?
Sort of. The underlying basis on which visreg operates is by using
the predict method to plot predictions from the model. Predictions
for mixed models are complicated. In particular, there is no
se.fit option provided by the
predict methods in the
lme4 packages, so you cannot obtain
confidence bands for conditional plots. Nevertheless,
will produce plots of estimated coefficients and partial residuals.
In addition, there may be certain nesting structures among the
visreg cannot be aware of; for example, if
you are trying to plot the effect of age for various individuals,
fixing sex at
sex=Male, this may involve setting the sex of
female subjects to
Male for the sake of the plot. Whether
such a plot has any meaning, you will have to judge for yourself.
In general, contrast plots are more trustworthy than than
conditional plots, given the intricacies of setting up conditions in
a hierarchical model.
Keep in mind that depending on what sort of predictions (BLUPs) you
are interested in, you may need to manually control the inclusion
of random effects in your predictions. By default, visreg includes
no random effects (i.e.,
nlme models and
lme4 models). If you are including a
random effect as a
by variable in
visreg, you most
likely want to add those effects back in, and you will have to do so
manually, by directly specifying the appropriate
re.form argument to
?predict.merMod). Handling this appropriately is the
user's responsibility; I cannot hope to automatically decide this
for all possible mixed models that could be passed to visreg.
As mentioned above, you cannot obtain confidence bands for
conditional plots. In the words of the authors of the
package, "There is no option for computing standard errors of
predictions because it is difficult to define an efficient method
that incorporates uncertainty in the variance parameters"; hence no
se.fit option. You can, however, get confidence bands for
'contrast' plots. In a contrast plot, the random effects
cancel and the above issue is avoided.
If you are running into difficulty using
visreg with mixed
models, feel free to e-mail me; mixed models have been less
extensively tested with
visreg than fixed-effect models, and
there may still be bugs to work out.
How do I use visreg for a model with offset terms?
By default, visreg is set up to provide conditional plots in which all other terms are set to their median value (or most common category). This includes offset terms. It is not uncommon, however, to want to see results with the offset included. To obtain these results, one needs to specify the offset among the arguments to cond. For example, using the Insurance data from the MASS package:
fit <- glm(Claims ~ District + Group + Age +
offset(log(Holders)), data = Insurance, family = poisson)
visreg(fit, "Group", scale="response")
This will provide the model's predictions for the expected number of claims given the median number of holders (here, 136). To obtain the expected number of claims per holder, we need to specify Holders=1 in cond:
visreg(fit, "Group", scale="response", cond=list(Holders=1))
Note also that to ensure proper functionality with all of visreg's
options, the use of the
offset() function, rather than the
offset= argument, is recommended.
Why doesn't visreg work with models I fit with package XXX?
visreg() relies on being able to call certain generic
functions to interface with the fitted model object that is passed
to it. Specifically, if
fit is the fit of a model that is
visreg, the following have to work:
If they do not, there is nothing I can really do on the
visreg end to get it to work – the author of the package
would need to add support for those generic functions to make it
more portable. If the above lines of code do work and
visreg still fails, please let me know – perhaps there is a
bug somewhere that I can fix.
Patrick Breheny and Woodrow Burchett
Maintainer: Patrick Breheny <[email protected]>
Breheny, P. and Burchett, W. (2017), Visualizing regression models using visreg. https://journal.r-project.org/archive/2017/RJ-2017-046/index.html
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