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**comprising x items, Kaiser–Guttman will
**

find x/2 factors… It’s time to worry about

this method!

The technique has also been shown

**Finding the magic number to be sensitive to properties of a dataset
**

other than the number of factors, with

a tendency to consistently overestimate

Paul Wilson and Colin Cooper investigate methods used to extract the number the number of factors. Nunnally and

of factors in a factor analysis Bernstein highlighted that the more

variables a dataset contained, the weaker

the Kaiser–Guttman threshold became.

A factor whose eigenvalue equals 1.0

accounts for 10 per cent of the variance

when composed of 10 variables, but only

actor analysis is the most widely least as much variance as an individual 5 per cent of variance when composed of

**F used (and abused) family of data-
**

structuring techniques to be found

in psychological research. One of the most

variable’. In other words, the average of

all eigenvalues is one, and factor analysis

should extract those factors with an

20. Given such vulnerability, it is no

wonder that this method is not

recommended for use (see Cooper, 2002,

important considerations when eigenvalue greater than this average value. p.124; Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994,

performing factor analysis is determining For simplicity, it may be useful to think of p.482; and Pallant, 2005, p.183).

how many factors are present. It is eigenvalues as indicators of the variance

important because if either too few or too explained by a factor. The

many factors are extracted, the rotated Kaiser–Guttman rule, therefore, is Finding the elbow

solution may make little sense, or even be arbitrarily based on the assumption that Cattell’s (1966) scree test is another

misleading. A number of procedures are factors with ‘better than average’ variance factor estimation technique reliant on

currently available to help make this explanation are significant, and those with eigenvalues. Also known as the ‘above

decision; however, those most commonly ‘below the elbow’ approach,

used are inappropriate and not based on average’ it uses relative, rather

sound statistical theory. We will review variation than absolute

four common methods; discuss the risks explanation eigenvalues. Factors

and benefits associated with each, and the are not. have their eigenvalues

practicalities of performing them. All are Indeed, plotted alongside each

based on an initial principal components we should other (y-axis) in order

analysis of the data. expect from of magnitude.

any dataset Insignificant factors

(importantly, explaining little

‘Greater than one’ this includes variance (and therefore

Recently, Costello and Osborne (2005) random low eigenvalues) will

found no fewer than 1700 studies that datasets), that form a near-straight

used some form of exploratory factor there will be line towards the right

analysis in a two-year review of factors that of the graph. Factors

PsycINFO. The majority of these used the explain a Figure 1: Cattell’s scree plot. Where is explaining large amounts

Kaiser–Guttman ‘Eigenvalues greater than ‘greater than the elbow of this plot? Some may see it of variance will appear

one’ criterion, (Guttman, 1954; Kaiser, average’ at Factor 4, others may see it at Factor 9: above the line to the left

1960, 1970) to determine the number of variance, and subjectively it could be either! of the graph (see Figure 1).

factors. Such a revelation would raise similarly The number of factors

many psychometricians’ eyebrows. some that explain ‘below average’ contained within the data is indicated by

In the latest edition of the variance. Therefore, with random data, the number of points ‘above the elbow’ of

psychometrician’s bible Psychometric the number of factors with eigenvalues the straight line. The obvious criticism of

Theory, Nunnally and Bernstein (1994) greater than one will be the same as half this method is its subjectivity, which is all

reason that the Kaiser–Guttman rule is the number of items making up that too often frowned upon by the dogma of

simply ‘that a factor must account for at dataset. In other words, with random data modern-day psychology. Nonetheless, it

Cattell, R.B. (1966). The scree test for the Guttman, L. (1954). Some necessary Kaiser, H.F. (1960). The application of Instruments and Computers, 38, 88–91.

references

number of factors. Multivariate conditions for common factor electronic computers to factor Available at tinyurl.com/67rowz

Behavioral Research, 1, 245–276. analysis. Psychometrika, 19, 149–161. analysis. Educational and Psychological Nunnally, J.C. & Bernstein, I.H. (1994).

Cooper, C. (2002). Individual differences Hayton, J.C., Allen, D.G. & Scarpello, V. Measurement, 20, 141–151. Psychometric theory (3rd edn). New

(2nd edn). London: Arnold. (2004). Factor retention decisions in Kaiser, H.F. (1970). A second generation York: McGraw-Hill.

Costello, A.B. & Osborne, J. (2005). Best exploratory factor analysis: A tutorial Little Jiffy. Psychometrika, 35, Pallant, J. (2005). SPSS survival manual,

practices in exploratory factor on parallel analysis. Organizational 401–417. (2nd edn). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill

analysis. Practical Assessment Research Methods, 7, 191–205. Lorenzo-Seva, U. & Ferrando, P.J. (2006). Education.

Research & Evaluation, 10, 1–9. Horn, J.L. (1965). A rationale and test for FACTOR: A computer program to fit Velicer, W.F. (1976). Determining the

Dinno, A. (2008). The Paran Package. the number of factors in factor the exploratory factor analysis model. number of components from the

Available at: http://cran.r-project.org/ analysis. Psychometrika, 30, 179–185. Behavioral Research Methods, matrix of partial correlations.

**866 vol 21 no 10 october 2008
**

methods

**can be useful, as it allows a visual as the Component Experimental eigenvalues Value of eigenvalue which
**

examination of a data structure, but only experimental number (eigenvalues observed in the occurs less than 5% of the

in accompaniment to a more statistically data (same real data) time when factoring random

robust technique to provide that magic number of data

number of factors. participants,

same number 1 6.2 4.0

of variables, 2 5.6 3.9

Mapping the right direction? etc.). It then

Velicer’s (1976) minimum average partial, factor analyses 3 4.2 3.7

or MAP method differs from methods each set of

4 3.5 3.6

mentioned so far, in that it has a much random data

sounder theoretical rationale and is and collates 5 3.1 3.4

consequently more complex to compute. the resulting

MAP produces a one-factor solution to a eigenvalues.

dataset and calculates an associated index This shows how big the first, second, have two theoretically grounded methods

based on the (average-squared) residual third, etc. eigenvalues typically are when of estimating the number of factors been

correlations of that one-factor solution. the null hypothesis is actually true (i.e. more often than not been tossed by the

A residual correlation can be best thought it shows how large a first-eigenvalue one wayside in favour of lesser methods such

of as a correlation indicating ‘left-over’ can expect to find by chance, when in as Kaiser–Guttman or Cattell’s scree?

variance that could not be explained by reality there are no factors present in the Maybe it is because these lesser

the single-factor solution. The higher data). If the eigenvalue for the first factor methods are commonly defaults within

this index, the more variance is left is larger for the experimental dataset than statistics software packages. For example,

unexplained by the factor. This process is for the random data, one can conclude SPSS by itself can only offer Cattell’s scree

then repeated for a two-factor extraction, that there is at least one factor present in plot and Kaiser–Guttman methods. So ‘if

then a three-factor extraction, and so on, the experimental dataset. If so, one SPSS can’t do it, I can’t do it’? Think

with the index of residual correlations considers whether the second eigenvalue again! There are numerous psychologist-

providing an indication of the amount of from the experimental dataset is greater friendly factor analysis programs out

variance that goes unaccounted for in an than its simulated counterpart, and so on. there, for free! ‘FACTOR’ (Lorenzo-Seva

extraction of x factors. This index will Rather than just checking whether the & Ferrando, 2006) is a very

show the number of factors (x) that can eigenvalue from straightforward freeware

be extracted to account for the maximum the program that computes MAP

amount of variance within the dataset experimental “these lesser methods are and parallel analysis at the

(i.e. the lowest residual correlation dataset is larger commonly defaults within tick of a box. You can even do

index). This is a primary objective of than the software packages” parallel analysis with SPSS by

factor analysis: to account for and average of the downloading a macro from

structure appropriately as much of the simulated the internet. If macros aren’t

variation within a dataset as possible. eigenvalues, it your thing, you may consider

So should we all use Velicer’s MAP is becoming more common to scrutinise a freeware program by Watkins (2000)

then? Unfortunately, MAP has been the sampling distribution of the simulated that will calculate random eigenvalues to

shown to underestimate the true number eigenvalues. This allows one to determine compare with SPSS’s output. The program

of factors (Hayton et al., 2004), but may whether there is less than a 5 per cent simply requires the number of

be more accurate than the chance that the first eigenvalue from the participants and variables in your

Kaiser–Guttman or Cattell’s scree (Zwick dataset could have occurred if, in reality, experimental data and how many random

& Velicer, 1986, p.440). there are no factors in the data. If there datasets you want calculated before

appears to be one factor present, the real averaging. Those who use R for their

and simulated eigenvalues for the second, statistics will find parallel analysis

The crème de la crème third, etc. factors are compared, until packages such as the very recent ‘paran’

Finally, we look at what seems to be sooner or later the real dataset produces package, Dinno (2008) on the CRAN

the crème de la crème of tests for the an eigenvalue that is no larger than one website.

numbers of factors: Horn’s (1965) parallel would expect by chance. Thus the Journal editorial policies are coming

analysis. This generates many, many sets number of eigenvalues before this point is up to speed with factor analytic theory,

of random data of the same appearance indicative of the number of ‘true’ factors with many now not accepting papers

contained within the experimental data – using Kaiser–Guttman and Cattell’s scree

three factors in the example shown in the methods alone. Our hope for this article

Table above. is to encourage those not yet sure about

MAP and parallel analysis methods to

Psychometrika, 41, 321–327.

Watkins, M.W. (2000). Monte Carlo PCA for

give them a try – they are not as daunting

parallel analysis [computer software]. Time to go beyond the default as they first seem.

State College, PA. Available at The conclusions of this review are far

tinyurl.com/6emtay from new. Zwick and Velicer (1986)

Zwick, W.R. & Velicer, W.F. (1986). compared these four methods using I Paul Wilson is in the School of Psychology,

Comparison of five rules for simulated data of various dataset Queen’ s University, Belfast

determining the number of properties and found MAP and parallel pwilson23@qub.ac.uk

components to retain. Psychological

analysis to be the most accurate methods, I Colin Cooper is in the School of Psychology,

Bulletin, 99, 432–442.

with Kaiser–Guttman being least accurate Queen’ s University, Belfast.

with consistent overestimation. So why c.cooper@qub.ac.uk

read discuss contribute at www.thepsychologist.org.uk 867

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