See also variable.
1. In experimental studies, a dependent variable is an outcome factor on which an independent (‘experimental’ or ‘controlled’) variable is hypothesized and observed to have a particular measurable effect (see also experiment; hypothesis). For example, a researcher in the effects tradition might manipulate viewers' exposure to certain types of programme content (the independent variable) in order to investigate a hypothesized impact on attitudes or behaviour (the dependent variable).
2. In theoretical frameworks, an independent variable is a phenomenon that is seen as influencing the behaviour of some other (dependent) factor. For instance, technological determinism presents technology as an independent variable leading to changes in social patterns (the dependent variable). Such relationships cannot necessarily be simply equated with cause and effect, and the direction of causality cannot be assumed. Note that a factor such as social class might be treated as a dependent variable in one context and as an independent variable in another: see also causation; intervening variable.
3. In the rhetoric of behaviourism, a dependent variable is any response attributed to the effects of a stimulus (the independent variable).
4. In statistics, a dependent variable is a measurable factor identified as predictably influenced by one or more independent variables: see also data analysis.