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Response surface analysis with missing data
S. Humberg, S. Grund

Response surface analysis with missing data

Multivariate Behavioral Research

Response Surface Analysis (RSA) is gaining popularity in psychological research as a tool for investigating congruence hypotheses (e.g., consequences of self-other agreement, person-job fit, dyadic similarity). RSA involves the estimation of a nonlinear polynomial regression model and the interpretation of the resulting response surface. However, little is known about how best to conduct RSA when the underlying data are incomplete. In this article, we compare different methods for handling missing data in RSA. This includes different strategies for multiple imputation (MI) and maximum-likelihood (ML) estimation. Specifically, we consider the “just another variable” (JAV) approach to MI and ML, an approach that is in regular use in applications of RSA, and the more novel “substantive-model-compatible” (SMC) approach. In a simulation study, we evaluate the impact of these methods on focal outcomes of RSA, including the accuracy of parameter estimates, the shape of the response surface, and the testing of congruence hypotheses. Our findings suggest that the JAV approach can sometimes distort parameter estimates and conclusions about the shape of the response surface, whereas the SMC approach performs well overall. We illustrate applications of the methods in a worked example with real data and provide recommendations for their application in practice.