1. bookVolume 9 (2017): Issue 47 (December 2017)
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Journal
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2182-2875
First Published
16 Apr 2017
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4 times per year
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English
access type Open Access

Toward a Causal Interpretation of the Common Factor Model

Published Online: 16 Oct 2018
Volume & Issue: Volume 9 (2017) - Issue 47 (December 2017)
Page range: 581 - 601
Received: 05 Sep 2017
Accepted: 02 Nov 2017
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
2182-2875
First Published
16 Apr 2017
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

Psychological constructs such as personality dimensions or cognitive traits are typically unobserved and are therefore measured by observing so-called indicators of the latent construct (e.g., responses to questionnaire items or observed behavior). The Common Factor Model (CFM) models the relations between the observed indicators and the latent variable. In this article we argue in favor of interpreting the CFM as a causal model rather than merely a statistical model, in which common factors are only descriptions of the indicators. When there is sufficient reason to hypothesize that the underlying causal structure of the data is a common cause structure, a causal interpretation of the CFM has several benefits over a merely statistical interpretation of the model. We argue that (1) a causal interpretation conforms with most research questions in which the goal is to explain the correlations between indicators rather than merely summarizing them; (2) a causal interpretation of the factor model legitimizes the focus on shared, rather than unique variance of the indicators; and (3) a causal interpretation of the factor model legitimizes the assumption of local independence.

Keywords

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