Higher Order Factors

Fundamentals of Social Statistics by Adam J. McKee

Once again, let us return to the hypothetical example of the political scientist researching conservatism.  A factor analysis reveals (let us say) five distinct factors in the data (obtained from asking participants the 25 questions).  For each of these factors, a factor score can be calculated (there are several ways of doing this).  If we are correct in our theoretical assumption that there is a single construct that we have named conservatism, then all of those factor scores should result in a single factor when factor analyzed.  If our theoretical speculation is confirmed and only one factor is identified, then we have strong support for the theoretical position that there is indeed a “thing” called conservatism, and our 25 items measure that thing.  When we identify a factor composed of other factors, statisticians call this a higher-order factor.

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Last Modified:  02/14/2019

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