How many principal components? Stopping rules for determining the number of non-trivial axes revisited. (English) Zbl 1429.62223

Summary: Principal component analysis is one of the most widely applied tools in order to summarize common patterns of variation among variables. Several studies have investigated the ability of individual methods, or compared the performance of a number of methods, in determining the number of components describing common variance of simulated data sets. We identify a number of shortcomings related to these studies and conduct an extensive simulation study where we compare a larger number of rules available and develop some new methods. In total we compare 20 stopping rules and propose a two-step approach that appears to be highly effective. First, a Bartlett’s test is used to test the significance of the first principal component, indicating whether or not at least two variables share common variation in the entire data set. If significant, a number of different rules can be applied to estimate the number of non-trivial components to be retained. However, the relative merits of these methods depend on whether data contain strongly correlated or uncorrelated variables. We also estimate the number of non-trivial components for a number of field data sets so that we can evaluate the applicability of our conclusions based on simulated data.


62H25 Factor analysis and principal components; correspondence analysis


Canoco; sedaR
Full Text: DOI


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