Exploratory Factor Analysis and Theory Generation in Psychology

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 8 (3):519-540 (2017)
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Exploratory factor analysis is a statistical method widely used in quantitative psychology for the construction of scales and measurement instruments. It aims to reduce the complexity of a data set and explain the common and unique variance using latent variables. In introductory textbooks, exploratory factor analysis is generally presented in contrast to confirmatory factor analysis as a theory- or a hypothesis-generating process that does not require prior background, theory or hypothesis to be performed. The aim of the present paper is to analyze this claim and clarify in which sense exploratory factor analysis is theory-laden. We provide a careful examination of the concepts it involves and thereby establish a clear limitation of the epistemic scope of exploratory factor analysis.



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Clayton Peterson
Université de Montréal

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References found in this work

Models in Science (2nd edition).Roman Frigg & Stephan Hartmann - 2021 - The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
La théorie physique: son objet et sa structure.P. Duhem - 1906 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 61:324-327.

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