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The Logic of Latent Variable Analysis as Validity Evidence in Psychological Measurement

January, 1970

Article Type: Review Article

Journal Name:

DOI: 10.2174/1874350101609010168 move

Issue: | Volume: 9 | Page No:


Background Validity is the most important characteristic of tests and social science researchers have a general consensus of opinion that the trustworthiness of any substantive research depends on the validity of the instruments employed to gather the data. Objective It is a common practice among psychologists and educationalists to provide validity evidence for their instruments by fitting a latent trait model such as exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis or the Rasch model. However, there has been little discussion on the rationale behind model fitting and its use as validity evidence. The purpose of this paper is to answer the question: why the fit of data to a latent trait model counts as validity evidence for a test? Method To answer this question latent trait theory and validity concept as delineated by Borsboom and his colleagues in a number of publications between 2003 to 2013 is reviewed. Results Validating psychological tests employing latent trait models rests on the assumption of conditional independence. If this assumption holds it means that there is a ‘common cause’ underlying the co-variation among the test items, which hopefully is our intended construct. Conclusion Providing validity evidence by fitting latent trait models is logistically easy and straightforward. However, it is of paramount importance that researchers appreciate what they do and imply about their measures when they demonstrate that their data fit a model. This helps them to avoid unforeseen pitfalls and draw logical conclusions.