The standardization fallacy

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!” —D. Adams

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: A confounding factor can be ignored, standardized or heterogenized.
Fig. 2: Standardization increases power but leads to higher variation between labs if an interaction between treatment and confounder is present.
Fig. 3: Confounder interaction can increase power to detect a treatment effect but reduce reproducibility.


  1. 1.

    Würbel, H. Nat. Genet. 26, 263 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. Nat. Methods 11, 1187–1188 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. Nat. Methods 11, 699–700 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. Nat. Methods 10, 1139–1140 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Smucker, B., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. Nat. Methods 16, 211–212 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Voelkl, B. et al. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 21, 348–393 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Martin Krzywinski.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Voelkl, B., Würbel, H., Krzywinski, M. et al. The standardization fallacy. Nat Methods 18, 5–7 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41592-020-01036-9

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing