Repeated Measures ANOVA

Repeated measures ANOVA is a test that seems close to one-way ANOVA as it allows to check for differences between the means of three and more groups. The essential difference is that the groups are dependent (i.e. related). This means that the groups contains data or measurements from the same individuals. What differs in terms of design may be when measurements were taken (measurements were thus repeated in time: before, during and after an experiment OR every day during a given time frame, OR etc) or in which circumstances or conditions measurements were performed (for example, measurements were done 3 times, each time following application of a new drug). “As usual”, the null hypothesis states that the means of all groups are equal.

Assumptions are:

  • each individual is represented in the form of a measurement in each of the tested groups (there cannot be any missing value),
  • normality of distribution,
  • sphericity, which means that equality of variance is verified when comparing any two groups (all possible pairs of groups) in the experimental design,
  • groups do not contain outliers.

As in one-way ANOVA, you may use aov(). You may as well fit a linear mixed effect model and thus employ the function lme() in the package nlme. However, in both cases, we need to tell the program/function that some of the measurements are not replicates but that they originate from the same individual. We will thus use the function Error() within the function aov() and the argument random=~1|subjects in lme()


Let’s take an example where 5 rats are weighed 4 times with intervals of 4 weeks (week8 to 20). Here is the code for the dataframe:

rat.weight <- c(164,164,158,159,155,220,230,226,227,222,261,275,264,280,272,306,326,320,330,312)
rat.ID <- as.factor(rep(c("rat1","rat2","rat3", "rat4", "rat5"),4))
time.point <- as.factor(c(rep("week08",5), rep("week12",5), rep("week16",5), rep("week20",5)))
my.dataframe <- data.frame(rat.ID,time.point,rat.weight)

The dataframe looks like this (click to enlarge):

Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 13.42.06

Let’s visualize the boxplots:

plot(rat.weight~time.point, data=my.dataframe, ylab="weight", xlab="time")

Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 13.45.41


Below is a more useful, colored line chart that displays the growth curve for each of the five rats:

with(my.dataframe, interaction.plot(time.point, rat.ID, rat.weight, col=c("black", "red", "blue", "green", "purple"), lty= c(1,2,3,4,5)))

Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 13.47.06


Now, let’s check the assumption of normality of distribution:


Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 13.49.29

Everything looks fine… all p-values are above 0.05 so normality of distribution does not constitute a problem.


Let’s go for the test with aov() and let’s mention the relationship between observations in Error():

results <- aov(rat.weight~time.point+Error(rat.ID/time.point), data=my.dataframe)


Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 13.52.46

… and so the test returns a rather large F value (794) and a very, very small p-value (4.64.10-14) indicating a main effect of time.point on rat.weight (unsurprisingly…).


Let’s go for the test with lme() and let’s mention the relationship between observations with random=:

Since lme() is part of a package, you may need to install and/or load it, if it isn’t already done. Here is how to do it:


The following code fits the linear mixed model:

results.lme <- lme(rat.weight~time.point,random=~1|rat.ID, data=my.dataframe)

Skjermbilde 2016-09-20 20.14.29
As for aov(), the output shows a F-value close to 794 and a p-value under 0.0001. The null hypothesis can be rejected; there is a significant difference between the means of the groups in time.point.


But what about the assumption of sphericity that we mentioned earlier..? How do we test this? 

Sphericity is commonly checked via Mauchly’s test. However, running this test and the corresponding function (mauchly.test()) is a bit complicated in R. In the case of (one-way) repeated measures ANOVA, we commonly use the package car which is preinstalled in R (but not activated unless you have typed in library(car) once since you started R today…). In fact, there is a way using car to run the ANOVA and the Mauchly test at once. This requires that you convert your dataset in a particular way (which is described in details on this website by Koji Yatani). Let’s see that by reusing the previous example:

First load the package:



Then, convert your dataframe into a matrix. In the following line of code, cbind() picks up all the data in my.dataframe, group by group (the groups are week08, week12, week16 and week20) and builds a matrix.

my.matrix <- with(my.dataframe, cbind(rat.weight[time.point=="week08"], rat.weight[time.point=="week12"], rat.weight[time.point=="week16"], rat.weight[time.point=="week20"]))

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Now we build a linear model and a design (by which we name the groups/factors):

model <- lm(my.matrix ~ 1)
design <- factor(c("week08", "week12", "week16", "week20"))


and we eventually run the repeated measures ANOVA via the function Anova():

options(contrasts=c("contr.sum", "contr.poly"))
results <- Anova(model, idata=data.frame(design), idesign=~design, type="III")
summary(results, multivariate=F)

R prints the following output:
Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 14.38.04

As you may see here in the middle of the output, the Mauchly test for sphericity appears in the middle. It returns a p-value over 0.05 meaning that the null hypothesis stating that there is no difference in variances for all pairwise group comparisons is accepted. This means also that we have all rights to go ahead with the repeated measure ANOVA… and the result of the repeated measures ANOVA is to be found on top of the output. On the same line as “design”, an F-value and a p-value are given, and they show the same results as previously obtained.

Now that you know that there exist significant differences, you may proceed with an adapted posthoc test (pairwise comparisons).


But what about the assumption of normality of distribution is not met?

If so, you may use a non-parametric test called Friedman rank sum test (or simply Friedman test).

The function to call in R is friedman.test(data, factor1, factor2) where data is the vector that contains the measurements, factor1 is the grouping factor and factor2 is the blocking factor (where the individual IDs are stored).

Using our example as exposed at the top of this page, the syntax is:

friedman.test(rat.weight, time.point, rat.ID)

and the resulting output is:
Skjermbilde 2016-08-05 15.55.46
The null hypothesis stating that there is no difference between the means of the groups is (again) rejected due to the low p-value.