Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952651 | Print ISBN: 9781412924702 | Online ISBN: 9781412952651| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Thomas D. Fletcher
Factor analysis is a statistical procedure for describing the interrelationships among a number of observed variables. Factor analysis is used to measure variables that cannot be measured directly, to summarize large amounts of data, and to develop and test theories. There are two broad categories of factor analysis: exploratory and confirmatory. Exploratory factor analysis techniques have a much longer history than confirmatory factor analysis techniques. Differences in the approaches lead to different uses (e.g., theory development versus theory confirmation). Factor analysis has three fundamental purposes. First, it is useful for measuring constructs that cannot readily be observed in nature. For example, we cannot hear, see, smell, taste, or touch intelligence, but it can be inferred from the assessment of observable variables such as performance on specific ability tests. Factor analysis is also helpful in the development of scales to measure attitudes or other such latent constructs by assessing responses to ...