What is factor analysis? How is it used specifically in psychology?


I tried searching online, but all the explanations are too complicated for me to understand well. Thank you!

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I’ll throw a couple examples rather than trying to explain the methodology (which can be understandably difficult to understand).

Let’s say we wanted to analyze socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic status (SES) is a factor you can’t measure directly. However, you can assess occupation, income, and education levels. These variables all relate to socioeconomic status. People with a particular socioeconomic status tend to have similar values for the observable variables. If the factor (SES) has a strong relationship with these indicators, then it accounts for a large portion of the variance in the indicators.

Another example is analyzing mental health. Depression is a condition inside the mind that researchers can’t directly observe. However, they can ask questions and make observations about different behaviors and attitudes. Depression is an invisible driver that affects many outcomes we can measure. Consequently, people with depression will tend to have more similar responses to those outcomes than those who are not depressed.

Hope those help to paint a picture for you.