Disambiguating Latent Variables

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Hood, S. Brian
conference paper description
In contrast to Borsboom (2008) who distinguishes between manifest and latent variables on epistemic grounds in terms of “epistemic accessibility,” I advocate a demarcation on pragmatic grounds. The latter way of understanding this distinction does justice to the intuitions driving Borsboom’s account, but avoids unnecessary epistemic complications. I then turn to two cases, the Flynn Effect and the case of psycho-educational assessment, and show an equivocal understanding of one latent variable, Spearman’s g, has led some researchers to draw paradoxical conclusions regarding cognitive ability.