Statistical Analysis

June 2, 2021

Statistical analysis takes a random variable and conveys its likely characteristics.

Specifically, it characterizes random sample(s) drawn from a probability space (Ω, E, P) in terms of non-random statistics. Often, these statistics are defined in terms of the expectation operator E.

The expectation operator creates a map from a random variable to a specific number like 2.7 or 5. The statistics can be calculated analytically if the probability function P in (Ω, E, P) is known. However, in the real world, P usually isn’t known. In such cases, statistics may be estimated with various techniques.

Here are several takeaways about statistical analysis:

  • Statistical analysis is performed on a random variable or random process.
  • A random variable turns an experimental outcome into a number.

Random & Non-random Numbers

Random variables in the form of numbers allow engineers to perform mathematical operations on random variables. However, a mathematical operation on a random number is still a random number.

Before a decision can be made, engineers require a non-random number (statistic) that tells them about the underlying physical system that generated the random number. Typically, the operation that maps a random number (variable) to a non-random number is the expectation operator E.

Expectation Operator E

The expectation operator E is at the foundation of many statistics and statistical analyses. The expectation EX of a random variable X is the sum of each possible value of X weighted by the probability of the value occurring.

The expected value EX of a random variable X is:

(1)   \begin{equation*} \text{EX}=\sum\nolimits_{n}\text{x}_{n}\text{P}(\text{x}_{n}) \end{equation*}

where […, x1, x2, x3, x4, x5, …] are the possible values of X and P(xn) is the probability that the value xn will occur.

The expected value EX tells an engineer what to expect from X.


If X is a random variable that represents the sum of a pair of dice, then the expected value EX of X is:

EX = 2(1/36) + 3(2/36) + 4(3/36) + … + 12(1/36) = 7

Therefore, we might expect a pair of dice to come up with a sum of 7.

Moments of Single Random Variables

Using the expectation operator, we can define some common statistics, or moments, of a single random variable X.

  • The nth moment of X is E[Xn].
  • The 1st moment is the mean or μ.
  • The nth absolute moment of X is E[|X|n]. E[|X|2] is closely related to the Welch estimate of the PSD.

The nth central moment of X is E[(X-μ)n].

    • E[(X-μ)2] is the variance of X or σ².
    • E[(X-μ)3] is the skewness of X.
    • E[(X-μ)4] is the kurtosis of X.

The nth absolute central moment of X is E[|X-μ|n].

Example: Moment Statistics

Using the dice pair example above:

(2)   \begin{equation*} \mu=E\lceil X\rceil=7 \end{equation*}

(3)   \begin{equation*} \sigma^2=E\lceil(X-\mu)^2\rceil \end{equation*}

(4)   \begin{equation*} \begin{split} =(2-\mu)^2(1/36)+(3-\mu)^2(2/36)+(4-\mu)^2(3/36)+(5-\mu)^2(4/36) \\ +(6-\mu)^2(5/36)+(7-\mu)^2(6/36)+(8-\mu)^2(5/36)+(9-\mu)^2(4/36) \\ +(10-\mu)^2(3/36)+(11-\mu)^2(2/36)+(12-\mu)^2(1/36) \end{split} \end{equation*}

(5)   \begin{equation*} =\frac{(25\times1)+(16\times2)+(9\times3)+(4\times4)+(1\times5)+(0\times6)+(1\times5)+(4\times4)+(9\times3)+(16\times2)+(25\times1)}{36} \end{equation*}

(6)   \begin{equation*} =210/36\approx5.83 \end{equation*}

In this example, μ and σ² were calculated from the known probability function P. However, in most real-world applications, P is not known. In this case, the common solution is to take many samples and estimate statistics from them.

Arithmetic Mean

The arithmetic mean can be used when estimating the mean μ=E[X]. The arithmetic mean of the samples x1, x2, x3, …, xN; is defined as:

(7)   \begin{equation*} (1/\text{N})\sum\nolimits_{\text{n}=1...\text{N}}x_{n} \end{equation*}

Is the arithmetic mean a good estimate of the true mean E[X]? The answer depends on how large N is and if the device that generated the samples is stable over time (if the process is wide-sense stationary or WSS).

If N is large and the process is WSS, then the arithmetic mean is, informally, a good estimate of E[X]. For example, the engineer can say the estimate is unbiased.

(1/N) times the sum of N random variables is a random variable:

(8)   \begin{equation*} \text{Y}=(1/\text{N})\sum\nolimits_{\text{n}=1...\text{N}}\text{X}_{n} \end{equation*}

The expected value of Y is:

(9)   \begin{equation*} \begin{split} \text{EY}=\text{E}(1/\text{N})\sum\nolimits_{\text{n}=1...\text{N}}\text{X}_{n} \\ =(1/\text{N})\sum\nolimits_{\text{n}=1...\text{N}}\text{EX}_{n} \end{split} \end{equation*}

If the process is wide-sense stationary, then EXn are all the same and:

(10)   \begin{equation*} \begin{split} \text{EY}=\text{E}(1/\text{N})\sum\nolimits_{\text{n}=1...\text{N}}\text{X}_{n} \\ =(1/\text{N})\sum\nolimits_{\text{n}=1...\text{N}}\text{EX}_{n} \\ =(1/\text{N})\text{N EX}=\text{EX}=\mu \end{split} \end{equation*}

The expected value of the arithmetic mean is the true mean. This means that the arithmetic mean is an unbiased estimate of the true mean.