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A cautionary note on testing latent variable models


The article tackles the practice of testing latent variable models. The analysis covered recently published studies from 11 psychology journals varying in orientation and impact. Seventy-five studies that matched the criterion of applying some of the latent modeling techniques were reviewed. Results indicate the presence of a general tendency to ignore the model test ($χ^2$) followed by the acceptance of approximate fit hypothesis without detailed model examination yielding relevant empirical evidence. Due to reduced sensitivity of such a procedure to confront theory with data, there is an almost invariable tendency to accept the theoretical model. This absence of model test consequences, manifested in frequently unsubstantiated neglect of evidence speaking against the model, thus implies the perilous question of whether such empirical testing of latent structures (the way it is widely applied) makes sense at all.

Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1715. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01715