Bridging Advanced Quantitative Methods and Applied Research in the Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
The issue of reliability can be a complex and often misunderstood issue. Entire text books have been written about reliability, validity, and scale construction, so we only briefly touch on the key issues here (see Bandalos, 2018, for an excellent recent example). To begin, in most areas across the behavioral, educational, and health sciences, theoretical constructs are hypothesized to exist yet cannot be directly measured. Common examples include depression, anxiety, academic motivation, commitment to treatment, and perceived stress. A vast array of psychometric methods have been developed over the past century to use multi-item scales as a basis to infer the existence of these underlying constructs. Indeed, the genesis of factor analysis (most commonly dated to Spearman in 1903) was motivated by the desire to use multi-test assessments to compute person-specific values of cognitive functioning. Psychometric methods are sometimes organized into pragmatic approaches (e.g., Classical Test Theory) and axiomatic approaches (e.g., item response theory and factor analysis). However, a fundamental component of all of these methods is reliability.