Compose Items and Response Scales

For this task, complete the readings for this week; and then, write a paper in which you answer the following questions and complete the following assignments:Determine the major issues that must be addressed in item construction.Discuss the general types of response scales used in measuring a construct and provide brief examples for each.Indicate a more appropriate response scale that your instrument could use. Justify your use of the response scale.Construct three sample items (even without the benefit of SMEs or a focus-grouped discussion) that represent your construct of choice. Include an appropriate response scale.Use Rauthmann’s proposed item format taxonomy to analyze your partially-constructed three-item scale (i.e., point of reference, general item format, construct indicator, and conditionality).Length: 5-7 pages, not including title and reference pagesYour assignment should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts presented in the course by providing new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards.
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SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 2011, 39(1), 119-128
© Society for Personality Research (Inc.)
DOI 10.2224/sbp.2011.39.1.119
NOT ONLY ITEM CONTENT BUT ALSO ITEM FORMAT IS
IMPORTANT: TAXONOMIZING ITEM FORMAT APPROACHES
JOHN F. RAUTHMANN
Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
In this article I argue that as well as item content, item formats (i.e., phrasing and response
formats) are also important. Most trait items can be mapped onto 4 dimensions: point of
reference (first person, possessive, others, indicator), general item format (staticity, frequency,
valency, frequency + valency), construct indicator (attributal, behavioral, mental, contextual),
and conditionality (unconditional, conditional). An item taxonomy tree for the first person
perspective is provided for an Openness to Experiences item, and NEO-PI-R Extraversion
items are analyzed according to the 4-item format dimensions. Future lines of research on
item phrasing are outlined.
Keywords: item format, response/answering format, item generation, scale construction,
psychological/personality/trait assessment.
Validly and reliably assessing people’s traits is crucial to personality psychology
and psychological assessment, and thus considerable effort has been put into
constructing self-report measures. Researchers usually seek to maximize content
validity of their measures, that is, each item’s content for a certain construct is
diligently chosen in order to optimally capture the construct. However, effects
of item wording, grammar, or syntax are generally neglected or underestimated,
and items – even from the same construct or scale – show a variety of formats.
Not only the content of items but also their formats (including answering scales)
John F. Rauthmann, Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, Leopold-Franzens University of
Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
Appreciation is due to reviewers including: Chao-Chien Chen, Office of Physical Education, Asia
University, No. 500, Liufeng Road, Wufeng, Taichung, Taiwan 413, ROC, Email: apeter72@
hotmail.com
Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: John F. Rauthmann, Department of Psychology,
Leopold-Franzens University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, Bruno-Sander-Haus, A-6020, Innsbruck,
Austria. Phone: +43 512 507 5548; Fax: +43 512 507 2838; Email: j.f.rauthmann@gmx.de
119
120
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
are important and influence psychometric properties of a scale, such as construct
and criterion validity.
In this article I seek to (a) formulate common item format approaches
and present an item taxonomy tree, (b) show how the proposed item format
taxonomization is applied to analyzing one of the most widely used trait
measures in personality psychology (the NEO-PI-R by Costa & McCrae, 1992)
for a central trait dimension (Extraversion), and (c) provide an outlook on future
lines of research concerning different item formats and how they might affect
psychometric properties.
A TAXONOMY FOR ITEM FORMATS
Items aimed at capturing trait content are various in their structures and formats,
yet they can be organized according to certain dimensions; namely, general item
format, construct indicators, conditionality/contextuality, and perspective taken/
point of reference.
In general, trait items use (a) static sentences or descriptions (for example, “I
am outgoing”, “I go out and talk with people”, “I think of other people”), (b)
frequency descriptions of behaviors and mental processes (for example, “I often
go out and talk with people”, “I usually think of people”), and (c) descriptions
concerning the valence of one’s feelings towards something (for example, “I
enjoy going out and talking with people”, “I love socializing”, “I do not like
being around too many people”). These three approaches can be deemed as
general item formats into which most items fit. Static descriptions use a staticity
approach, frequency descriptions a frequency approach, and valence descriptions
a valency approach. They need not be indicated within the item, however, but
can be found in the response scales (for example, when answering the item “I
go out and talk with people” on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1= almost
never to 5 = very often). Besides using a general approach to item formats, items
also contain different construct-relevant indicators (related to the item content)
which are mostly attributes (in other words, adjectives), behaviors, mental states
and processes, and contexts or situations. Further, items can be conditional or
unconditional: Conditional items use if- or when-clauses to give contextual
specifications under which certain mental processes and behaviors occur (cf.
if-then patterns of dispositions by Mischel & Shoda, 1995). Moreover, the point
of reference or perspective of items can be distinguished: There can be a first
person referring to his or her own attributes, mental processes, and behaviors
(“I am/think/feel/do/behave…”), but also can “possessively” refer to his or
her own attributes, mental processes, and behaviors (“My thoughts/feelings/
behaviors…”). Also, someone else can be referring to one’s own attributes,
mental processes, and behaviors (“Others think/say that I/my…”). Additionally,
the item need not explicitly refer to oneself in particular but rather to a construct-
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
121
relevant indicator (for example, when agreeing to the item “Most people impose
on others’ kindness”, one could be described as cynical although the item per
se does not refer in any way to the person answering the item but rather to the
person’s attitude).
Most items aimed at capturing trait-constructs can thus be described in
terms of a four-way interaction of the following dimensions (see Figure 1):
point of reference (first person, possessive, others, indicator) x general item
format (staticity, frequency, valency, frequency + valency) x construct indicator
(attributal, behavioral, mental, contextual) x conditionality (unconditional,
conditional). However, not all interactions are possible, and although most items
have a standing on all four of the dimensions, some items may possess two
standings within a dimension. The item taxonomy tree (ITT; Figure 1) gives an
overview of possible basic item categorizations for the first person perspective
along with examples of how a single item (“I enjoy thinking of new ways to solve
problems” from the FIRNI by Denissen & Penke, 2008) could be rephrased for
each branch.1
ANALYSES OF NEO-PI-R EXTRAVERSION ITEMS
All analyses were performed on the German version of Costa and McCrae’s
(1992) NEO-PI-R by Ostendorf and Angleitner (2003), and thus results should not
be rashly generalized to the English version although the basic steps of analysis
can also be applied to it. The NEO-PI-R2 was chosen due to its wide application
and comprehensiveness, the trait of Extraversion as it is a fundamental dimension
of human personality (Wilt & Revelle, 2009, p. 27).
METHOD AND PROCEDURE
Item format analyses were carried out with respect to the previously presented
four basic dimensions of items: reference point (about oneself in first person; about
indicators pertaining to oneself; others about indicators pertaining to oneself;
about indicators), general item approach (staticity; frequency; valency; frequency
+ valency), construct indicators (attributal; behavioral; mental; contextual), and
conditionality (unconditional; conditional). There were several criteria for each
dimension and its subdimensions that were used to evaluate each item’s standing
on these (sub)dimensions. All items with “I . . .” were classified as first person
reference items. Items with “My . . .” were classified as items about indicators
1
2
This particular item was chosen because it could be rephrased for nearly all branches and still remain
sensible at most points.
Analyses of the NEO-FFI are also included as the items for the NEO-FFI are taken from the NEOPI-R. NEO-PI-R Extraversion has 48 items (8 items for 6 facets), the NEO-FFI 12 Items.
122
Reference point
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
Item approach
Construct indicator
attributal
Staticity
behavioral
Conditionality
unconditional
[1]
conditional
[2]
unconditional
[3]
conditional
[4]
unconditional
[5]
mental
attributal
behavioral
Frequency
Example
conditional
[6]
unconditional
[7]
conditional
[8]
unconditional
[9]
conditional
[10]
unconditional
[11]
conditional
[12]
unconditional
[13]
conditional
[14]
unconditional
[15]
conditional
[16]
unconditional
[17]
conditional
[18]
unconditional
[19]
conditional
[20]
unconditional
[21]
conditional
[22]
unconditional
[23]
conditional
[24]
unconditional
[25]
conditional
[26]
unconditional
[27]
conditional
[28]
unconditional
[29]
conditional
[30]
mental
contextual
First person
attributal
behavioral
Valency
mental
contextual
attributal
behavioral
Frequency+Valency
mental
contextual
Figure 1. The item taxonomy tree (for the first person singular).
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
123
Figure 1 notes:
[1] I am a good and creative problem solver.
I am good and creative at problem solving.
I am someone who solves problems well and creatively.
[2] I am a good and creative problem solver if the problem is interesting.
I am good and creative at problem solving if the problem is interesting.
I am someone who solves problems well and creatively if the problem is interesting.
[3] I solve problems.
[4] I solve problems if they are interesting.
[5] I think of new ways to solve problems.
[6] I think of new ways to solve problems if they are interesting.
[7] I am usually a good and creative problem solver.
I am usually good and creative at problem solving.
I am someone who usually solves problems well and creatively.
[8] I am usually a good and creative problem solver if the problem is interesting.
I am usually good and creative at problem solving if the problem is interesting.
I am someone who usually solves problems well and creatively if the problem is interesting.
[9] I often solve problems.
[10] I often solve problems if they are interesting.
[11] I often think of new ways to solve problems.
[12] I often think of new ways to solve problems if they are interesting.
[13] I find myself often in problems which need to be creatively solved.
[14] I find myself often in problems if they are interesting.
[15] I like being a creative problem solver.
I like being creative at problem solving.
I am someone who likes solving problems well and creatively.
[16] I like being a creative problem solver if the problem is interesting.
I like being creative at problem solving if the problem is interesting.
I am someone who likes solving problems well and creatively if the problem is interesting.
[17] I enjoy solving problems.
[18] I enjoy solving problems if they are interesting.
[19] I enjoy thinking of new ways to solve problems.
[20] I enjoy thinking of new ways to solve problems if they are interesting.
[21] I enjoy (being in) interesting problems.
[22] I enjoy (being in) problems if they are interesting.
[23] I usually like being a creative problem solver.
I usually like being creative at problem solving.
I am someone who usually likes solving problems well and creatively.
[24] I usually like being a creative problem solver if the problem is interesting.
I usually like being creative at problem solving if the problem is interesting.
I am someone who usually likes solving problems well and creatively if the problem is
interesting.
[25] I often enjoy solving problems.
[26] I often enjoy solving problems if they are interesting.
[27] I often enjoy thinking of new ways to solve problems.
[28] I often enjoy thinking of new ways to solve problems if they are interesting.
[29] I often enjoy (being in) interesting problems.
[30] I often enjoy (being in) problems if they are interesting.
A staticity approach with contextual indicators was excluded as it cannot be formulated with
a first person perspective (in other words, the acting “I”). However, it could be formulated
somewhat like this with a construct indicator perspective (using the example item of
Openness to Experiences): Problems are [often] solved by me (if they are interesting).
124
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
pertaining to oneself. Items such as “Others think/say/etc. that I/my . . .” were
classified as items with others (as the reference point) about indicators pertaining
to oneself. Also, there were items which were classified as being items that used
an “indicator reference point”: The indicator for Extraversion in one item was
that the person finds most people sympathetic – and this is the central point of
reference in the item. Any item containing adverbs of frequency (for example,
never, seldom, rarely, sometimes, usually, normally, often) were classified as
frequency items. Items containing words that reflect a certain positive versus
negative valence (for example, like, dislike, love, enjoy, prefer) were classified
as valency items. All other items were classified as staticity items as they had
neither indicators of a frequency nor a valency approach. Should an item contain
an adverb of frequency and a word reflecting valence, then it was classified as
an item using a frequency and valency approach at once. Attributal construct
indicators were adjectives, behavioral indicators any forms of overt behavior that
could be potentially perceived by others (without inference), mental indicators
any forms of mental processes and states (that need to be inferred as they are
not observable), and contextual indicators any forms of “circumstances” (for
example, “people around me”) and situations. Conditionality was judged upon
the presence or lack of if/when clauses: Any if/when denoted a conditional item;
if there was none, then the item was categorized as an unconditional item.
RESULTS
Each item provided a score for all four dimensions. For example, an item
saying “I am dominant and assertive” would be classified as an item in “staticity
approach with attributal indicators, in an unconditional format, and with firstperson reference”. In a similar manner, all NEO-PI-R items were classified. Table
1 shows the results of item format analyses for NEO-PI-R facets of Extraversion
(warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, experience seeking, positive
emotions), NEO-PI-R Extraversion domain, and NEO-FFI Extraversion.
Point of reference For NEO-PI-R Extraversion facets, the first person
perspective was found in most items (M = 91.67%), whereas the NEO-FFI
Extraversion had 100%. Only two items in NEO-PI-R Extraversion had other
people as the reference point and also only two items had construct indicators as
the reference point.
Item approach The general item approach used the most in NEO-PI-R
Extraversion facets was the staticity approach (M = 41.67%, range: 12.5 – 75%),
followed by the frequency approach (M = 31.25%, range: 0 – 50%)3, and then
3
The means reflect percentages of NEO-PI-R Extraversion domain.
87
10
87.5
10
87.5
100
91.67
100
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
12.5 12.5
0
0
12.5
0
0
0
0
12.5
0
0
4.17 4.17
0
0
Point of reference (perspective) in %
1
2
3
4
75
25
25
62.5
12.5
50
41.67
50
0
12.5
50
37.5
37.5
50
31.25
8.33
25
0
50 12.5
25
0
0
0
50
0
0
0
25
2.08
33.33 8.33
General item approach in %
S
F
V
F+V
25
0
12.5
25
0
37.5
16.67
33.33
37.5
50
87.5
62.5
62.5
37.5
56.25
50
37.5
25
0
12.5
25
25
20.83
8.33
0
25
0
0
12.5
0
6.25
8.33
Construct indicators in %
A
B
M
C
100
87.5
100
87.5
100
100
95.83
100
0
12.5
0
12.5
0
0
4.17
0
Conditionality in %
No
Yes
Notes: Facets of Extraversion (in the NEO-PI-R) = Warmth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Experience Seeking, Positive Emotions: 8 items
each; NEO-PI-R Extraversion: 48 items (6 x 8 items); NEO-FFI Extraversion: 12 Items (from the NEO-PI-R: 1 x Warmth, 2 x Gregariousness, 1 x
Assertiveness, 3 x Activity, 1 x Experience Seeking, 4 x Positive Emotions).
1 = about oneself in first person, 2 = (possessively) about own attributes, behaviors, and mental processes, 3 = others about oneself and one’s attributes,
behaviors, and mental processes, 4 = about construct-relevant indicators; S = staticity approach, F = frequency approach, V = valency approach,
F + V = frequency and valency approach mixed together; A = attributal indicators, B = behavioral indicators, M = mental indicators, C = contextual
indicators.
Warmth
Gregariousness
Assertiveness
Activity
Experience seeking
Positive emotions
Total (NEO-PI-R)
Total (NEO-FFI)
Scale
TABLE 1
PERCENTAGES OF PERSPECTIVES, GENERAL ITEM APPROACHES, CONSTRUCT INDICATORS, AND CONDITIONALITY IN NEO-PI-R AND NEO-FFI
EXTRAVERSION ITEMS
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
125
126
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
the valency approach (M = 25%, range: 0 – 50%). NEO-FFI Extraversion had
50% of staticity items, 33.33% of valency items, and 8.33% frequency items.
In both the NEO-PI-R and NEO-FFI, only one item had the frequency and
valency approaches combined. Obviously, the majority of items of NEO-PI-R
and NEO-FFI Extraversion are in a staticity format which makes no references
to frequencies or valencies of behaviors (or any other indicators).
Construct indicators Most indicators are behavioral in NEO-PI-R Extraversion
facets (M = 56.25%, range 37.5–87.5%) and in NEO-FFI Extraversion (50%).
NEO-PI-R Extraversion showed 16.67% of attributal (range 0–37.5%) and
20.83% of mental indicators (range 0–37.5%), whereas NEO-FFI Extraversion
showed 33.33% and 8.33% (in other words, only one item), respectively.
Contextual indicators were generally rare (6.25% in NEO-PI-R and 8.33% in
NEO-FFI Extraversion). Conditional items were also very rare (two items in
NEO-PI-R and no items in NEO-FFI Extraversion).
DISCUSSION
A special topic of classification should be raised critically: An item such as
“I enjoy talking to people”, for example, would have been classified here as an
item in “valency approach (enjoy) with a behavioral indicator (talking), in an
unconditional format (no if- or when-clause), and with first-person reference (I)”.
However, going strictly by the rules, the item could also have been classified
as an item in “staticity approach (static verb “enjoy”) with a mental indicator
(enjoy) and behavioral specification of the mental indicator (talking), in an
unconditional format (no if- or when-clause), and with first-person reference
(I)”. Although this possibility is also correct (and would have the advantage of
dissolving the valency approach and thus reducing the complexity of the item
format taxonomy proposed), this was not done for two reasons: First, the valency
approach may still be seen as a distinct form as it only refers to mental indicators
of positive versus negative valence, and the “valency” is a central point. Second,
the valency approach is used very commonly and should thus be distinguished.
Thus, although I recommend distinguishing the valency approach, it could
also be described as a special form of staticity approach with mental indicators
(denoting positive–negative valence), and future researchers might also use this
alternate type of classification.
PROSPECTS AND FUTURE LINES OF RESEARCH
Knowing which item phrasings are beneficial to which traits and which
psychometric abilities is very important for personality research and psychological
assessment as data quality could be improved. Thus, the ITT provides a first
guide in determining which kind of items a certain scale possesses (the example
PROPOSING AN ITEM FORMAT TAXONOMY
127
used here was NEO-PI-R Extraversion) and which kinds of items there could
potentially be for a first person perspective (the example used here was a Five
Individual Reaction Norms Inventory (FIRNI) Openness to Experiences item …
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