The use of inverse sine transformations in the analysis of non‐metric cranial data

Richard F. Green, Judy Myers Suchey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


In recent years osteologists have frequently used non‐metric (dichotomous) cranial data to measure biological distance between skeletal samples of Homo sapiens. Applying methods used earlier by biologists, these workers begin by attempting to stabilize the variance of the measures used by transforming the observed trait frequencies using some type of inverse sine transformation. The frequently used Grewal‐Smith transformation doesn't work well for small samples of the size often considered by osteologists. As a consequence the mean measure of divergence between populations determined by this method is strongly influenced by a bias which depends on sample size. This paper compares several transformations in terms of how close the actual variance of the transformed frequency corresponds to its nominal value. It is suggested that the traditional (Grewal‐Smith) inverse sine transformation not be used, and several alternatives are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1976


  • Biological distance
  • Discrete traits
  • Inverse sine transformation
  • Non‐metric
  • Statistical analysis


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