Clustered Common Factor Exploration in Factor Analysis

Uno, Kohei; Adachi, Kohei and Trendafilov, Nickolay T. (2019). Clustered Common Factor Exploration in Factor Analysis. Psychometrika, 84(4) pp. 1048–1067.



The factor analysis (FA) model does not permit unique estimation of the common and unique factor scores. This weakness is notorious as the factor indeterminacy in FA. Luckily, some part of the factor scores can be uniquely determined. Thus, as a whole, they can be viewed as a sum of determined and undetermined parts. The paper proposes to select the undetermined part, such that the resulting common factor scores have the following feature: the rows (i.e., individuals) of the common factor score matrix are as well classified as possible into few clusters. The clear benefit is that we can easily interpret the factor scores simply by focusing on the clusters. The procedure is called clustered common factor exploration (CCFE). An alternating least squares algorithm is developed for CCFE. It is illustrated with real data examples. The proposed approach can be viewed as a parallel to the rotation techniques in FA. They exploit another FA indeterminacy, the rotation indeterminacy, which is resolved by choosing the rotation that transforms the loading matrix into the 'most' interpretable one according to a pre-specified criterion. In contrast to the rotational indeterminacy, the factor indeterminacy is utilized to achieve well-clustered factor scores by CCFE. To the best of our knowledge, such an approach to the FA interpretation has not been studied yet.

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