Reconsidering Formative Measurement

Roy D. Howell, Einar Breivik, James B. Wilcox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Scopus citations


The relationship between observable responses and the latent constructs they are purported to measure has received considerable attention recently, with particular focus on what has become known as formative measurement. This alternative to reflective measurement in the area of theory-testing research is examined in the context of the potential for interpretational confounding and a construct's ability to function as a point variable within a larger model. Although these issues have been addressed in the traditional reflective measurement context, the authors suggest that they are particularly relevant in evaluating formative measurement models. On the basis of this analysis, the authors conclude that formative measurement is not an equally attractive alternative to reflective measurement and that whenever possible, in developing new measures or choosing among alternative existing measures, researchers should opt for reflective measurement. In addition, the authors provide guidelines for researchers dealing with existing formative measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-218
Number of pages14
JournalPsychological Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • formative
  • measurement
  • reflective
  • structural equation modeling


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