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Factor Analysis

  1. Barbara M. Byrne

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0344

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Byrne, B. M. 2010. Factor Analysis. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. University of Ottawa, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


In broad terms, factor analysis focuses on the link between a set of intercorrelated variables and their representation by a smaller set of conceptually meaningful megavariables, termed factors. Within this all-encompassing umbrella description, factor analysis is more precisely characterized in terms of its function. If used to determine the extent to which the set of variables can be adequately represented by a smaller number of factors, then we are describing exploratory factor analysis. If, on the other hand, it is used in determining the extent to which a set of variables are adequately represented by a smaller number of factors as postulated by theory and/or empirical research, then we are describing confirmatory factor analysis. In providing a more comprehensive explanation of factor analysis, I first address the general notion of factor analysis and then follow with a more extensive description of both exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, together with a comparative summary of these two factor analytic approaches. Finally, I close this article by addressing important issues and caveats associated with the application of these approaches in psychological research.


  • exploratory factor analysis;
  • confirmatory factor analysis;
  • principal components analysis;
  • factor structures