Latent constructs, such as liberalism or conservatism, are theoretical and cannot be measured directly.
But we can represent the latent construct by combining a set of questions on a scale, called indicators. We do this via factor analysis.
Often prior research has determined which indicators represent the latent construct. Prudent researchers will run a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to ensure the same indicators work in their sample.
An extremely useful area of statistics is a set of models that use latent variables: variables whole values we can’t measure directly, but instead have to infer from others. These latent variables can be unknown groups, unknown numerical values, or unknown patterns in trajectories.
Based on questions I’ve been asked by clients, most analysts prefer using the factor analysis procedures in their general statistical software to run a confirmatory factor analysis.
While this can work in some situations, you’re losing out on some key information you’d get from a structural equation model. This article highlights one of these.
Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) is the fundamental first step in running most types of SEM models. You want to do this first to verify the measurement quality of any and all latent constructs you’re using in your structural equation model.
After you are done with the odyssey of exploratory factor analysis (aka a reliable and valid instrument)…you may find yourself at the beginning of a journey rather than the ending.
The process of performing exploratory factor analysis usually seeks to answer whether a given set of items form a coherent factor (or often several factors). If you decide on the number and type of factors, the next step is to evaluate how well those factors are measured.
Many times in science we are intrigued to measure an underlying characteristic that cannot be observed or measured directly. This measure is hypothesized to exist to explain variables, such as behavior, that can be observed.
The measurable variables are called manifest variables. The unmeasurable are called latent variables.
Latent variables are often called factors, especially in the context of factor analysis.