# What does the residuals vs fitted regression line express? So what can I infer from this red regression line?

What does it mean for the regression line to get positive residual values or negative residual values?

I know e.g. that I can infer that the more the line is near 0 the more "linear" the fit is.

• The meaning of the red line depends on what it is, and how it was obtained, as in what regression method was used. By itself, no statistics and no statistical procedures are presented, so the meaning is obscure.
– Carl
Oct 8 '16 at 18:04
• Oct 8 '16 at 20:10

The red line is a LOWESS fit to your residuals vs fitted plot. Basically, it's smoothing over the points to look for certain kinds of patterns in the residuals. For example, if you fit a linear regression on data that looked like $y = x^2$ you'd see a noticeable bowed shape. In this case it's pretty flat, which provides evidence that a linear model is reasonable.

Remember that a residual is $e_i = y_i - \hat{y}_i$ which is the true $y_i$ minus what the regression estimates should be the outcome for point $i$. On your plot, this means that the point labeled 25 had a predicted value of about 525 but the residual was around -200, meaning its actual value was closer to 325.

In response to your comment asking more about the line: If the data is not linear, there will be a pattern to the residuals and this is one way of helping you see that. If your regression assumptions are met, you'll get a flat line, as any slice of your residuals should be mean zero (and often normally distributed).

Here is some example code to see what happens when assumptions are violated

x = 1:100
y1 = 10 * sin(2 * pi * x / 100) + rnorm(100)
y2 = (x / 10) ^ 2 + rnorm(100)

mod1 <- lm(y1 ~ x)
mod2 <- lm(y2 ~ x)


The plots for models 1 and 2 follow  Notice that the lines follow a different pattern depending on the deviation from linearity.

• Can you explain how to read the LOWESS line? I understand that if it's close to zero, then it's "good", but why is it good? Oct 8 '16 at 18:06
• It is the shape of the line which matters @mavavilj as this answer and the one referred to by glen_b is his comment above show with many example plots. Oct 9 '16 at 12:51