Beanplot: A Boxplot Alternative for Visual Comparison of Distributions

Peter Kampstra

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Boxplots and variants thereof are frequently used to compare univariate data. Boxplots have the disadvantage that they are not easy to explain to non-mathematicians, and that some information is not visible. A beanplot is an alternative to the boxplot for visual comparison of univariate data between groups. In a beanplot, the individual observations are shown as small lines in a one-dimensional scatter plot. Next to that, the estimated density of the distributions is visible and the average is shown. It is easy to compare different groups of data in a beanplot and to see if a group contains enough observations to make the group interesting from a statistical point of view. Anomalies in the data, such as bimodal distributions and duplicate measurements, are easily spotted in a beanplot. For groups with two subgroups (e.g., male and female), there is a special asymmetric beanplot. For easy usage, an implementation was made in R.

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