Get the correlations of one or more variables with many others using focus()
from the corrr package:
library(corrr)
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg)
#> # A tibble: 10 x 2
#> rowname mpg
#>
#> 1 cyl 0.8521620
#> 2 disp 0.8475514
#> 3 hp 0.7761684
#> 4 drat 0.6811719
#> 5 wt 0.8676594
#> 6 qsec 0.4186840
#> 7 vs 0.6640389
#> 8 am 0.5998324
#> 9 gear 0.4802848
#> 10 carb 0.5509251
Let’s break it down.
Motivation
I’ve noticed a lot of people asking how to do this: see here, here, here.
So this post will explain how to use focus()
from the corrr package to correlate one or more variables in a data frame with many others.
Starting with corrr
We’ll be using the corrr package, which starts by using correlate()
to create a correlation data frame. For example, we can correlate()
all columns in the mtcars
data set as follows:
mtcars %>% correlate()
#> # A tibble: 11 x 12
#> rowname mpg cyl disp hp drat
#>
#> 1 mpg NA 0.8521620 0.8475514 0.7761684 0.68117191
#> 2 cyl 0.8521620 NA 0.9020329 0.8324475 0.69993811
#> 3 disp 0.8475514 0.9020329 NA 0.7909486 0.71021393
#> 4 hp 0.7761684 0.8324475 0.7909486 NA 0.44875912
#> 5 drat 0.6811719 0.6999381 0.7102139 0.4487591 NA
#> 6 wt 0.8676594 0.7824958 0.8879799 0.6587479 0.71244065
#> 7 qsec 0.4186840 0.5912421 0.4336979 0.7082234 0.09120476
#> 8 vs 0.6640389 0.8108118 0.7104159 0.7230967 0.44027846
#> 9 am 0.5998324 0.5226070 0.5912270 0.2432043 0.71271113
#> 10 gear 0.4802848 0.4926866 0.5555692 0.1257043 0.69961013
#> 11 carb 0.5509251 0.5269883 0.3949769 0.7498125 0.09078980
#> # ... with 6 more variables: wt , qsec , vs , am ,
#> # gear , carb
Introducing focus()
Once we have a correlation data frame, we can focus()
on subsections of these results. For example, to focus()
on the correlations of the mpg
variable with all other variables, we do:
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg)
#> # A tibble: 10 x 2
#> rowname mpg
#>
#> 1 cyl 0.8521620
#> 2 disp 0.8475514
#> 3 hp 0.7761684
#> 4 drat 0.6811719
#> 5 wt 0.8676594
#> 6 qsec 0.4186840
#> 7 vs 0.6640389
#> 8 am 0.5998324
#> 9 gear 0.4802848
#> 10 carb 0.5509251
How does it work?
focus()
works similarly to select()
from the dplyr package (which is loaded along with the corrr package). You add the names of the columns you wish to keep in your correlation data frame. Extending select()
, focus()
will then remove the remaining column variables from the rows. This is why mpg
does not appear in the rows above. Here’s another example with two variables:
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg, disp)
#> # A tibble: 9 x 3
#> rowname mpg disp
#>
#> 1 cyl 0.8521620 0.9020329
#> 2 hp 0.7761684 0.7909486
#> 3 drat 0.6811719 0.7102139
#> 4 wt 0.8676594 0.8879799
#> 5 qsec 0.4186840 0.4336979
#> 6 vs 0.6640389 0.7104159
#> 7 am 0.5998324 0.5912270
#> 8 gear 0.4802848 0.5555692
#> 9 carb 0.5509251 0.3949769
focus()
gives us all the same syntax as select()
. For example, to drop a column (instead of keeping it), we use 
, which will then keep it in the rows:
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg)
#> # A tibble: 1 x 11
#> rowname cyl disp hp drat wt qsec
#>
#> 1 mpg 0.852162 0.8475514 0.7761684 0.6811719 0.8676594 0.418684
#> # ... with 4 more variables: vs , am , gear , carb
Or use utility functions like contains()
:
iris[5] %>% correlate() %>% focus(contains("Sepal"))
#> # A tibble: 2 x 3
#> rowname Sepal.Length Sepal.Width
#>
#> 1 Petal.Length 0.8717538 0.4284401
#> 2 Petal.Width 0.8179411 0.3661259
For the full list of uses, explore ?select
.
Working with the results
Let’s take the case of correlating one variable with all others (e.g., mpg
with all others). What should we do? Well, we have a data_frame with two columns:

rowname
which has the names of the other variables. 
mpg
which has the correlations ofmpg
with the other variables.
With this in mind, one thing we can do is describe various aspects of the correlations within summarise()
(also from dplyr package):
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg) %>% summarise(
n = n(),
mean = mean(mpg),
sd = sd(mpg),
min = min(mpg),
max = max(mpg)
)
#> # A tibble: 1 x 5
#> n mean sd min max
#>
#> 1 10 0.1050454 0.7198517 0.8676594 0.6811719
I also like to visualise the correlations. For example, using the ggplot2 package:
library(ggplot2)
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg) %>%
ggplot(aes(x = rowname, y = mpg)) +
geom_bar(stat = "identity") +
ylab("Correlation with mpg") +
xlab("Variable")
To add to this, we can order rowname
by the correlation size in mutate()
below:
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg) %>%
mutate(rowname = factor(rowname, levels = rowname[order(mpg)])) %>%
ggplot(aes(x = rowname, y = mpg)) +
geom_bar(stat = "identity") +
ylab("Correlation with mpg") +
xlab("Variable")
Extra features
There are a few additional features to focus()
that might help you on occasions.
First, you can keep the remaining columns in the rows (and remove all others) with the mirror = TRUE
argument:
mtcars %>% correlate() %>% focus(mpg:drat, mirror = TRUE)
#> # A tibble: 5 x 6
#> rowname mpg cyl disp hp drat
#>
#> 1 mpg NA 0.8521620 0.8475514 0.7761684 0.6811719
#> 2 cyl 0.8521620 NA 0.9020329 0.8324475 0.6999381
#> 3 disp 0.8475514 0.9020329 NA 0.7909486 0.7102139
#> 4 hp 0.7761684 0.8324475 0.7909486 NA 0.4487591
#> 5 drat 0.6811719 0.6999381 0.7102139 0.4487591 NA
For programmers, there’s also a standard evaluation version focus_()
, which behaves like select_()
.
Sign off
Thanks for reading and I hope this was useful for you.
For updates of recent blog posts, follow @drsimonj on Twitter, or email me at [email protected] to get in touch.
If you’d like the code that produced this blog, check out the blogR GitHub repository.
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