# How to statistically describe chain-like patterns in bivariate data?

I am reading an article that explores correlation between two variables, X and Y. Usually, if the scatter plot show something like this, we can claim that there is a strong correlation of X and Y.

Y
|
|              o
|           o o
|          o
|        o o
|       o
|    o
|  o
+--------------------->X


Y
|    o          o
|    o          o
|     o        oo
|     o         o
|    oo         o
|    o          o
|    o          o
| o oo o oo oo o o o oo
+--------------------->X
x1          x2


Basically, the scatter plot show strong clustering and spikes around a few data point along X axis, e.g. x1 and x2.

What kind of statistical property does this imply?

-
Incidentally, can you link to the article in question? (The figure you're making could be caused by a couple of explanations, but it depends on the specific data). –  David Robinson Sep 18 '12 at 19:34
For example, depending on what the figure specifically looks like, x and y could be entirely independent. Try running plot(rnorm(20000, rep(1:2, each=10000), .2), rlnorm(20000, 0, .8)) in R. It'll look roughly similar to your figure, even though x and y are perfectly independent. –  David Robinson Sep 18 '12 at 19:38
@DavidRobinson, sorry the article is still under review and not publicly available. –  Oliver Sep 19 '12 at 13:23

## migrated from stackoverflow.comSep 18 '12 at 23:59

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

The correlation between X and Y measures the presence or absence of a linear relationship between them. If y=aX+B -- a pure line with no scatter and no error - the correlation will be 1 (if a>0) and -1 (if a < 0). It is not a general measure of causality or relatedness.

Your second scatter plot shows no linearity at all. A correlation is not an appropriate measure in this case.

-
Your clarification on the term "correlation" <--> linear relationship is correct. It shows a relationship, just not the correlation. I am still trying to find the right way to describe the relationship though. –  Oliver Sep 19 '12 at 13:28
It looks like a mixture model: 2 tight distributions centered around X1 and X2 respectively. That's all I can say, since I don't know where the numbers come from. It doesn't look as if knowing a Y value helps you predict X - or vice versa. –  Placidia Sep 19 '12 at 14:12