A Guide to Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity

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Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity is a critical statistical tool often utilized in multivariate analysis, which, as the name suggests, measures ‘sphericity’. It tests the hypothesis that the variables in the population are uncorrelated (orthogonal), and therefore, a correlation matrix is an identity matrix. It plays a pivotal role in factor analysis and other multivariate data analysis methods. This comprehensive guide will elucidate the application of Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity using R.

Grasping Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity

Named after the mathematician M.S. Bartlett, Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity assesses whether the variables are intercorrelated, indicating the suitability of factor analysis. The null hypothesis of this test states that the original correlation matrix is an identity matrix, suggesting no correlation between the variables. Rejection of the null hypothesis indicates that there are significant correlations between at least some of your variables.

If the variables in a data set are correlated, the dataset is deemed suitable for factor analysis. The reason being, factor analysis works on the premise that variables are correlated. If variables are uncorrelated, there would be as many factors as variables, making the factor analysis redundant.

Install Necessary Packages

Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity can be performed in R using the cortest.bartlett() function from the “psych” package. You can install it using the install.packages() function, as follows:


After installation, load the package into your R environment using the library() function:


Performing Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity in R

The Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity can be performed using the cortest.bartlett() function in the psych package. This function is used to test the hypothesis that the correlation matrix is an identity matrix. Here is how you can use the cortest.bartlett() function:

# Load a dataset
df <- mtcars[ , 1:7]

# Perform Bartlett's Test of Sphericity
result <- cortest.bartlett(df)

# Print the result

In this code, df is the data frame being tested. The cortest.bartlett() function calculates the test statistic and p-value and stores it in the result object.

Interpreting the Results

The output of the cortest.bartlett() function includes the chi-square test statistic, degrees of freedom, and the p-value for the test. If the p-value is less than the selected significance level (often 0.05), then the null hypothesis of an identity matrix is rejected. This indicates that there are significant correlations between at least some of your variables, making your data suitable for factor analysis.

However, failing to reject the null hypothesis does not confirm that all your variables are uncorrelated. It merely states that there’s insufficient evidence to suggest otherwise. Also, like any statistical test, Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity is susceptible to Type I and Type II errors. Type I error is when you wrongly reject a true null hypothesis, often termed a “false positive.” On the other hand, Type II error occurs when you fail to reject a false null hypothesis, or a “false negative.”

Applying Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity in Factor Analysis

Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity holds a pivotal role in factor analysis. This statistical method aims to explain the variance among the observed variables by a smaller number of unobserved variables known as factors. Factor analysis works under the premise that the observed variables are correlated.

Therefore, before performing a factor analysis, Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity helps determine whether factor analysis is suitable for your data. If Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity rejects the null hypothesis, the data set is considered fit for factor analysis.


Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity serves as an essential tool when dealing with multivariate data, specifically in factor analysis. With R and the “psych” package, performing Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity becomes simple and efficient. However, it’s vital to fully understand the principles and assumptions that underlie the test to avoid misinterpretation and incorrect conclusions.

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