Model selection with multiple regression on distance matrices leads to incorrect inferences


In landscape genetics, model selection procedures based on Information Theoretic and Bayesian principles have been used with multiple regression on distance matrices (MRM) to test the relationship between multiple vectors of pairwise genetic, geographic, and environmental distance. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we examined the ability of model selection criteria based on Akaike’s information criterion (AIC), its small-sample correction (AICc), and the Bayesian information criterion (BIC) to reliably rank candidate models when applied with MRM while varying the sample size. The results showed a serious problem: all three criteria exhibit a systematic bias toward selecting unnecessarily complex models containing spurious random variables and erroneously suggest a high level of support for the incorrectly ranked best model. These problems effectively increased with increasing sample size. The failure of AIC, AICc, and BIC was likely driven by the inflated sample size and different sum-of-squares partitioned by MRM, and the resulting effect on delta values. Based on these findings, we strongly discourage the continued application of AIC, AICc, and BIC for model selection with MRM.


© 2017 Franckowiak et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Simulation and Modeling, Genetics, Gene Flow, Random Variables, Monte Carlo Method, Spatial Autocorrelation, Regression Analysis, Statistical Data


Franckowiak RP, Panasci M, Jarvis KJ, Acuña-Rodriguez IS, Landguth EL, Fortin M-J, et al. (2017) Model selection with multiple regression on distance matrices leads to incorrect inferences. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0175194.