The dependability of the general factor of intelligence: Why small, single-factor models do not adequately represent g

Jason T. Major, Wendy Johnson, Thomas J. Bouchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Floyd, Shands, Rafael, Bergeron and McGrew (2009) used generalizability theory to test the reliability of general-factor loadings and to compare three different sources of error in them: the test battery size, the test battery composition, the factor-extraction technique, and their interactions. They found that their general-factor loadings were moderately to strongly dependable. We replicated the methods of Floyd et al. (2009) in a different sample of tests, from the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart (MISTRA). Our first hypothesis was that, given the greater diversity of the tests in MISTRA, the general-factor loadings would be less dependable than in Floyd et al. (2009). Our second hypothesis, contrary to the positions of Floyd et al. (2009) and Jensen and Weng (1994), was that the general factors from the small, randomly-formed test batteries would differ substantively from the general factor from a well-specified hierarchical model of all available tests. Subtests from MISTRA were randomly selected to form independent and overlapping batteries of 2, 4 and 8 tests in size, and the general-factor loadings of eight probe tests were obtained in each battery by principal components analysis, principal factor analysis and maximum likelihood estimation. Results initially indicated that the general-factor loadings were unexpectedly more dependable than in Floyd et al. (2009); however, further analysis revealed that this was due to the greater diversity of our probe tests. After adjustment for this difference in diversity, and consideration of the representativeness of our probe tests versus those of Floyd et al. (2009), our first hypothesis of lower dependability was confirmed in the overlapping batteries, but not the independent ones. To test the second hypothesis, we correlated g factor scores from the random test batteries with g factor scores from the VPR model; we also calculated special coefficients of congruence on the same relation. Consistent with our second hypothesis, the general factors from small non-hierarchical models were found to not be reliable enough for the purposes of theoretical research. We discuss appropriate standards for the construction and factor analysis of intelligence test batteries. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-433
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • g factor
  • Factor loadings
  • Generalizability theory
  • Psychometric sampling
  • Dependability
  • Factor analysis
  • General intelligence


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