# Questions on Interpreting Factor Analysis Results and Scores

I am trying to learn factor analysis and I thought it would be a good idea to try and very poorly "mimic" the computation for IQ scores with a dataset of dummy values as a way to "learn by example".

To start off, this is what I intend to do, and I don't know if this methodology is correct or not: I have the loadings for that factor determined. Now that I have the loadings, I want to generate a score for each of the samples. That will leave me with a population of scores that I can then standardize around a mean of 100. From there I would plot a normal distribution. Whenever I get a new sample, I can then generate a score for it and see where it falls on the distribution.

To get my results, I am using Python's Sklearn library, specifically the FactorAnalysis class. I noticed that the FactorAnalysis class has a score_samples() method. The output score for each sample is the log-likelihood of the sample.

Here are some of the questions I have:

• Is my approach in generating a distribution based on the samples' factor scores flawed? How do they do it in practice?

• Is the log-likelihood of a sample even an appropriate score to use? (If not, what alternative ways are there to score a sample?)

• I have gone ahead and generated the scores using the score_samples() method for all the samples, but they range between -4 and -49. Is there a reason they would be negative?

• If you are only looking for 1 latent factor, is it good practice to set the number of factors to 1 or should you leave it unspecified anyways?

Here are the loadings if I leave set the number of factors to 1:

            Factor 1
variable 1  0.082558
variable 2  0.107940
variable 3  0.199645
variable 4  0.612495
variable 5  0.623707


Here are the loadings if I do not specify the number of factors:

             Factor 1   Factor 2   Factor 3  Factor 4  Factor 5
variable 1   0.263914   0.426346  -0.012893   -0.0       0.0
variable 2   0.297078   0.415269  -0.002193    0.0      -0.0
variable 3   0.243590  -0.005131   0.085178   -0.0      -0.0
variable 4   0.487537  -0.224135  -0.019501   -0.0      -0.0
variable 5   0.484462  -0.248173  -0.008902    0.0       0.0


Is my approach in generating a distribution based on the samples' factor scores flawed? How do they do it in practice?

I found this somewhat difficult to follow. But in general, you should be able to approximate a set of test scores using a multivariate normal distribution where the covariance matrix implies positive correlations between all tests. Some might be larger and some smaller, but the idea is that all ability tests are correlated. And general mental ability can be estimated as the first unrotated factor that results from such tests.

Is the log-likelihood of a sample even an appropriate score to use? (If not, what alternative ways are there to score a sample?)

This sounds more like how you evaluate a model. E.g., how you evaluate a factor analytic solutions. In general, factor saved scores will be a weighted composite of the scores on the component tests.

In R, you can use factanal

factanal(x, factors, data = NULL, covmat = NULL, n.obs = NA,
subset, na.action, start = NULL,
scores = c("none", "regression", "Bartlett"),
rotation = "varimax", control = NULL, ...)


See the scores argument. There are a few different methods.

I have gone ahead and generated the scores using the score_samples() method for all the samples, but they range between -4 and -49. Is there a reason they would be negative?

I don't know Python. But in general, factor saved scores are typically quantified in such a way that they are z-scores (e.g., mean = 0, sd = 1).

If you are only looking for 1 latent factor, is it good practice to set the number of factors to 1 or should you leave it unspecified anyways?

You need to either extract only one factor or ensure that you apply no rotation to the extract factors. Without a rotation, the first factor will be equivalent to just one factor. If you rotate, variation will be partitioned across the extracted factors.

• I see, thanks. I am now using R and its much better for factor analysis. I suppose the only question I have left is how would one properly index the scores? I've run the analysis and I have the factor scores, but I'm not sure how to actually index them. Jul 24, 2018 at 7:47
• @tear728 by index, do you mean, "how do you extract them and add them to your data file? Jul 25, 2018 at 6:41
• @Jeremy Anglim maybe index was not the right term to use. I meant index as in creating a distribution based on the scores, but then I noticed in your answer that the factor scores are z-scores, so that will do. There is still one last part that I need clarification on though. So I've run the factor analysis, found the loadings and the factor scores for each sample in the population. However, let's say a new, individual sample of raw data appears. How would I properly score that individual sample? If it helps, I can ask this as a new question instead. Jul 25, 2018 at 18:30
• Sure. Perhaps ask as separate question and post link here so I get pinged. Jul 26, 2018 at 5:07
• Here is the new question... thanks for any help: psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/20404/… Aug 6, 2018 at 22:49