Are True Scores and Construct Scores the Same? A Critical Examination of Their Substitutability and the Implications for Research Results
16 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2013
Date Written: December 2013
Relations between constructs are estimated based on correlations between measures of constructs corrected for measurement error. This process assumes that the true scores on the measure are linearly related to construct scores, an assumption that may not hold. We examined the extent to which differences in distribution shape reduce the correlation between true scores on a measure and scores on the underlying construct they are intended to measure. We found, via a series of Monte Carlo simulations, that when the actual construct distribution is normal, nonnormal distributions of true scores caused this correlation to drop by an average of only .02 across 15 conditions. When both construct and true score distributions assumed different combinations of nonnormal distributions, the average correlation was reduced by .05 across 375 conditions. We conclude that theory‐based scales intended to measure constructs usually correlate highly with the constructs they are constructed to measure. We show that, as a result, in most cases true score correlations only modestly underestimate correlations between different constructs. However, in cases in which the two constructs are redundant, this underestimation can lead to the false conclusion that the constructs are ‘correlated but distinct constructs,’ resulting in construct proliferation.
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