# How Frequency Distributions Are Used In Psychology Research

A frequency distribution is a summary of how often different scores occur within a sample of scores. Let’s take a closer look at what this means.

## What Is a Frequency Distribution?

• A frequency can be defined as how often something happens. For example, the number of dogs that people own in a neighborhood is a frequency.
• A distribution refers to the pattern of these frequencies.
• A frequency distribution looks at how frequently certain things happen within a sample of values. In our example above, you might do a survey of your neighborhood to see how many dogs each household owns.

A frequency distribution is commonly used to categorize information so that it can be interpreted in a visual way.

Let’s say you obtain the following set of scores from your sample:

1, 0, 1, 4, 1, 2, 0, 3, 0, 2, 1, 1, 2, 0, 1, 1, 3

The first step in turning this into a frequency distribution is to create a table. Label one column the items you are counting, in this case, the number of dogs in households in your neighborhood.

Next, create a column where you can tally the responses. Place a line for each instance the number occurs.

Finally, total your tallies and add the final number to a third column.

Using a frequency distribution, you can look for patterns in the data. Looking at the table above you can quickly see that out of the 17 households surveyed, seven families had one dog while four families did not have a dog.

## Another Example of a Frequency Distribution

For example, let’s suppose that you are collecting data on how many hours of sleep college students get each night. After conducting a survey of 30 of your classmates, you are left with the following set of scores:

7, 5, 8, 9, 4, 10, 7, 9, 9, 6, 5, 11, 6, 5, 9, 9, 8, 6, 9, 7, 9, 8, 4, 7, 8, 7, 6, 10, 4, 8

In order to make sense of this information, you need to find a way to organize the data. In our example above, the number of hours each week serves as the categories, and the occurrences of each number are then tallied.

The above information could be presented in a table:

Looking at the table, you can quickly see that seven people reported sleeping for 9 hours while only three people reported sleeping for 4 hours.

## How Are Frequency Distributions Displayed?

Using the information from a frequency distribution, researchers can then calculate the mean, median, mode, range, and standard deviation. Frequency distributions are often displayed in a table format, but they can also be presented graphically using a histogram.

### A Word From Verywell

Frequency distributions are a helpful way of presenting complex data. In psychology research, a frequency distribution might be utilized to take a closer look at the meaning behind numbers. For example, imagine that a psychologist was interested in looking at how test anxiety impacted grades.

Rather than simply looking at a huge number of test scores, the researcher might compile the data into a frequency distribution which can then be easily converted into a bar graph. By doing this, the researcher can then quickly look at important things such as the range of scores as well as which scores occurred the most and least frequently.