Misbegotten Methodologies and Forgotten Lessons From Tom Swift’s Electric Factor Analysis Machine: A Demonstration With Competing Structural Models of Psychopathology

Ashley L. Greene, Ashley L. Watts, Miriam K. Forbes, Roman Kotov, Robert F. Krueger, Nicholas R. Eaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and its bifactor models are popular in empirical investigations of the factor structure of psychological constructs. CFA offers straightforward hypothesis testing but has notable pitfalls, such as the imposition of strict assumptions (i.e., simple structure) that obscure unmodeled complexity. Due to the limitations of bifactor CFAs, they have yielded anomalous results across samples and studies that suggest model misspecification (e.g., evaporating specific factors and unexpected loadings). We propose the use of exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to evaluate the structural validity of CFA solutions-either before or after the estimation of more restrictive CFA models-to (a) identify model misspecifications that may drive anomalous estimates and (b) confirm CFA models by examining whether hypothesized structures emerge with limited researcher input. We evaluated the degree to which predominant factor structures were invariant across contexts along the exploratory-confirmatory continuum and demonstrate how poor methodological choices can distort results and impede theory development. All CFA models fit well, but there were numerous differences in replicability and substantive interpretability. Several similarities emerged between bifactor CFA and EFA models, including evidence of overextraction, the collapse of specific factors onto the general factor, and subsequent shifts in how the general factor was defined. We situate these methodological shortcomings within the broader literature on structural models of psychopathology, articulate implications for theories (such as the p-factor) that are borne out of factor analysis, outline several remedies for problems encountered when performing exploratory bifactor analysis, and propose alternative specifications for confirmatory bifactor models. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological Methods
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. Psychological Methods.All Rights Reserved

Keywords

  • Bifactor model
  • Confirmatory factor analysis
  • Exploratory factor analysis
  • General factor
  • Rotation criteria

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Misbegotten Methodologies and Forgotten Lessons From Tom Swift’s Electric Factor Analysis Machine: A Demonstration With Competing Structural Models of Psychopathology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this