Basic Idea of Factor Analysis as a Data Reduction Method

Suppose we conducted a (rather "silly") study in which we measure 100 people's height in inches and centimeters. Thus, we would have two variables that measure height. If in future studies, we want to research, for example, the effect of different nutritional food supplements on height, would we continue to use both measures? Probably not; height is one characteristic of a person, regardless of how it is measured.

Let us now extrapolate from this "silly" study to something that one might actually do as a researcher. Suppose we want to measure people's satisfaction with their lives. We design a satisfaction questionnaire with various items; among other things we ask our subjects how satisfied they are with their hobbies (item 1) and how intensely they are pursuing a hobby (item 2). Most likely, the responses to the two items are highly correlated with each other. (If you are not familiar with the correlation coefficient, we recommend that you read the description in Basic Statistics - Correlations) Given a high correlation between the two items, we can conclude that they are quite redundant.

Combining Two Variables into a Single Factor