After building a generalized additive model (GAM) using mgcv package, we can use the plot function to visualize the smoother, like:

plot(M1, resid = TRUE)

The resid = TRUE argument ensures that residuals are added to the figure.

My question is: why this plot (to show the shape of smoother) is related to RESIDUAL? I mean, what we are interested should be the relationship between smoother and response variable, not residual. Then why residual occur in this smoother's plot?

In my immature understanding, "residual" is used in plots of model validation, e.g., residuals versus fitted values, residuals versus covariates.

  • $\begingroup$ The residuals will show you whether the modeled relationship is right, or if there are inconsistencies. $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2019 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @user2974951 But why "residuals" can show the modeled relationship, not the "observed response variable"? $\endgroup$
    – T X
    Aug 23, 2019 at 11:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does this help stats.stackexchange.com/questions/76226/…? $\endgroup$ Aug 23, 2019 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


If you look at the help for the plot.gam function you'll see that the residuals argument indicates that what is added to the plots of the smooth functions are partial residuals, not the model residuals.

The estimated partial residual of the $i$th observation for the $j$th smooth function in the model, $\hat{\varepsilon}^{\text{partial}}_{ji}$, are given by (following Wood (2017, p.184))

$$\hat{\varepsilon}^{\text{partial}}_{ji} = \hat{f_{j}}(x_{ij}) + \hat{\varepsilon}^{\text{p}}_i ,$$

where $\hat{\varepsilon}^{\text{p}}_i$ is the estimated Pearson residual for the $i$th observation from the full model.

The reason we might want to add partial residuals to the partial effects plot of the smooth function is that these partial residuals should be evenly scattered about the smooth function if the model is well fitted to the data. They act as another diagnostic plot to assess the model fit.


Wood, S.N., 2017. Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R, Second Edition. CRC Press.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice! I misunderstanded the "residuals" used in the partial effects plot. It should be "partial residual". $\endgroup$
    – T X
    Aug 24, 2019 at 7:10

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