The general purpose of multiple regression (the term was first used by Pearson, 1908) is to learn more about the relationship between several independent or predictor variables and a dependent or criterion variable. For example, a real estate agent might record for each listing the size of the house (in square feet), the number of bedrooms, the average income in the respective neighborhood according to census data, and a subjective rating of appeal of the house. Once this information has been compiled for various houses, it would be interesting to see whether and how these measures relate to the price for which a house is sold. For example, you might learn that the number of bedrooms is a better predictor of the price for which a house sells in a particular neighborhood than how "pretty" the house is (subjective rating). You may also detect "outliers," that is, houses that should really sell for more, given their location and characteristics.

Personnel professionals customarily use multiple regression procedures to determine equitable compensation. You can determine a number of factors or dimensions such as "amount of responsibility" (Resp) or "number of people to supervise" (No_Super) that you believe to contribute to the value of a job. The personnel analyst then usually conducts a salary survey among comparable companies in the market, recording the salaries and respective characteristics (i.e., values on dimensions) for different positions. This information can be used in a multiple regression analysis to build a regression equation of the form:

Salary = .5 * Resp + .8 * No_Super

Once this so-called regression line has been determined, the analyst can now easily construct a graph of the expected (predicted) salaries and the actual salaries of job incumbents in his or her company. Thus, the analyst is able to determine which position is underpaid (below the regression line) or overpaid (above the regression line), or paid equitably.

In the social and natural sciences, multiple regression procedures are very widely used in research. In general, multiple regression allows the researcher to ask (and hopefully answer) the general question "what is the best predictor of ..." For example, educational researchers might want to learn what are the best predictors of success in high-school. Psychologists may want to determine which personality variable best predicts social adjustment. Sociologists may want to find out which of the multiple social indicators best predict whether a new immigrant group will adapt and be absorbed into society.

See also, Computational Approach, Assumptions, Limitations, Practical Considerations, and Exploratory Data Analysis and Data Mining Techniques.