Volume 26, Issue 3 p. 315-324
Research Article

A clearer spotlight on spotlight: Understanding, conducting and reporting

Aradhna Krishna

Aradhna Krishna

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, 701 Tappan St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234,USA

Search for more papers by this author
First published: 28 April 2016
Citations: 65

This article is based on many discussions I have had with my doctoral students and post-docs and participants in my Sensory Marketing Laboratory (www.sensorymarketinglab.com), especially Luca Cian and Ryan Elder. I would also like to thank Nilufer Aydinoglu, Fred Feinberg, Amna Kirmani, Maureen Morrin, Tatiana Sokolova, and three pairs of anonymous reviewers for comments on this article.

Accepted by Amna Kirmani, Editor


There has been a remarkable increase in the use of spotlight analysis to examine any interactive effect between an independent variable and a continuous moderator. Most of the spotlight analyses have been conducted at one standard deviation above and below the mean value of the moderator, even when alternate methods are more appropriate. Additionally, many spotlight analyses are not conducted correctly. More importantly, results for spotlight analyses are reported in a manner that makes it virtually impossible for mistakes to be detected. This article focuses on “understanding,” “conducting,” and “reporting” spotlight analyses. By posing questions for the reader, it highlights some common mistakes made when doing spotlight analysis and explains why confusion often arises. Then it provides an easy to understand way to do spotlight analysis for some popular contexts. Alternatives to spotlight analysis are also briefly discussed. Finally, it suggests how to report results for spotlight analysis and for the alternatives. Pointing out recurrent mistakes should prevent perpetuation of misleading practices. Similarly, reporting essential details of the analyses should prevent mistakes from going undetected.