Convergent validity involves assessing the degree of relatedness between two scales that measure similar constructs.
The term “convergent validity” was first used by Campbell and Fiske (1959). They defined it as followz:
“a variable [should] correlate higher with an independent effort to measure the same trait than with measures designed to get at different traits…” (p. 83).
If two scales are measuring the same thing, but perhaps using slightly different questions, then scores on one should be very much related to scores on the other.
Convergent validity is assessed by administering both scales to the same sample and then calculating the correlation between scores on the two scales.
The closer the correlation is to 1, the higher the convergent validity. However, the closer the correlation is to 0, the lower the convergent validity.
Convergent validity is one of the two key ways to establish construct validity (the other being discriminant validity).
Quick Convergent Validity Examples
The following tests would examine convergent validity. In other words, they would explore the extent to which the two scales are related:
- Social Skills vs Social Competence: Comparing the scores on a measure of social skills with another scale that measures social competence
- Comparing IQ Tests: Calculating the correlation between verbal intelligence scores on the Stanford-Binet IQ test with the verbal intelligence scores on the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale
- Self-Esteem vs Self-Worth: Measuring the self-esteem of teenagers using one scale and their feelings of self-worth using another scale
- Calculating the correlation between a self-report measure of achievement motivation and ratings from teachers
- Teachers’ vs Observers’ Assessments: Assessing the attachment style of young children in primary school based on teachers’ ratings and comparing those scores to those of trained observers
- Introversion vs Shyness: Correlating the scores on a personality test measuring introversion and scores on a measure of shyness
- Administering a measure of liberalism and social tolerance and comparing the scores
- Servant Leadership vs Concern for Others: Correlating servant leadership scores with a personality scale that assesses concern for others
- Anxiety vs Tendency to Ruminate: Comparing scores on a measure of anxiety with scores on a scale that measures the tendency to ruminate
- Obsessiveness vs Attention to Detail: Assessing the correlation between one scale that measures obsessiveness and another scale that measures attention to detail
1. The Social Desirability Scale
Social desirability refers to a person’s tendency to try to create a favorable impression. The most frequently used scale of social desirability was developed by Crowne and Marlow (1960).
However, as Stöber (2001) pointed out, “After 40 years, however, it is questionable if all the items of the Marlowe-Crowne Scale are still up to date” (p. 3). For example, the Marlowe-Crown Scale contains questions such as: “I am always courteous, even to people who are dis-
Therefore, Stöber created a modern version of this scale, called the Social Desirability Scale (SDS-17). Sample questions include: “I always eat a healthy diet,” and “I take out my bad mood on others now and then.”
Both scales were administered to a sample of university students. Convergent validity was then assessed by calculating a correlation between scores on the two measures. As stated by Stöber (2001):
“A correlation of .74 with the Marlowe-Crowne Scale demonstrated substantial convergent validity” (p. 3).
Related Article: 15 Tolerance Examples
2. The Servant Leadership Style and Concern for Others
A servant leadership style can be defined as when a leader puts the needs of his/her staff above their own. This can mean sacrificing one’s personal time to help employees or going the extra mile to help your team fulfill their career dreams.
As stated by Greenleaf (1997), the servant leadership style emphasizes “increased service to others; a holistic approach to work; promoting a sense of community; and the sharing of power in decision making”
This leadership style has several components that are similar to a scale called Concern for Others (Welburn, 2015). This scale includes items such as: “I care about what happens to the people around me,” and “I am a compassionate person.”
To assess the convergent validity of a newly developed measure of the servant leadership style, we would simply administer both scales to a large sample of participants. The closer the correlation between the two scales is to 1, the stronger the convergent validity.
3. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Measures
Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to perceive, understand, and cope with the emotions of others and themselves. This personality construct has been widely researched in the area of leadership styles.
Brackett & Mayer (2003) conducted a convergent validity study on several measures of EQ: the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), and two self-report measures of EI; the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) and the self-report EI test (SREIT).
The scales were administered to approximately 200 U.S. undergraduate college students. Correlations were conducted on all the tests, assessing the degree of convergent validity between each test and the other two. The results showed that “…the MSCEIT was most distinct among EI measures (r = .21, .18, with the EQ-i and SREIT, respectively). The SREIT and EQ-i, however, were moderately interrelated (r=.43)” (p.1153).
Unfortunately, these somewhat low correlations mean that these scales have low convergent validity with one another.
4. Adult Attachment and Close Relationships
Ever since the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth’s independent lines of research on infant attachment, researchers have been interested in how these early bonding experiences manifest in adulthood.
Adult attachment style has been studied primarily through the use of scores on personality scales and questions about behavior and perceptions of adult romantic relationships.
Two measures related to this area of study are the Social Support Scale (SSS) and the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (ECR).
Questions on the SSS include (Zimet, et al. 1988): “My friends really try to help me,” and “I can talk about my problems with my family.” Questions on the ECR include (Wei, et al., 2007): “I don’t mind asking romantic partners for comfort, advice, or help,” and “I tell my partner just about everything.”
Frias, et al. (2015) found that the two scales have convergent validity with one another, which means the two scales are measuring similar constructs.
5. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA)
Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) is a way to assess both convergent and discriminant validity of several scales simultaneously.
After administering all of the scales of interest to a sample, the data is put into a statistical program such as SPSS. By clicking on various options, the program will then produce an output that shows how all of the questions on the scales relate to one another.
For example, if a researcher wants to assess the convergent validity of a math IQ test they have developed with the math subscales of other, more established IQ tests, then the CFA is the perfect option.
First, a large group of students with varied math skills takes both tests. Then, each student’s score on each item on both tests are put into the program.
The CFA will display a number for each question that is similar to a correlation. Scores on each test should be highly correlated with each other. This means that they are measuring very similar constructs, in this case, very similar math skills.
If there are some questions on the new test that do not correlate well with other items on that test, or other items on the established test, then it means there may be something odd about that particular item. However, the fewer items like this, the higher the convergent validity.
Convergent validity refers to the extent to which two scales that measure very similar constructs are related. If both scales are measuring the same thing, or very similar things, then they should be highly correlated with each other.
Researchers in psychology often develop their own measures of personality scales. This is not an ideal practice, but it is necessary due to the unavailability of standardized measurement tools.
In order to assess the quality of these different measures, it is necessary to conduct a variety of comparisons statistically. By calculating the correlation between two measures of the same construct, researchers can assess the validity of each. If the correlation is close to 1, then researchers can have more confidence in both scales.
Campbell, D. T., & Fiske, D. W. (1959). Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-multimethod matrix. Psychological bulletin, 56(2), 81-105.
Brackett, M. A., & Mayer, J. D. (2003). Convergent, Discriminant, and Incremental Validity of Competing Measures of Emotional Intelligence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(9), 1147–1158. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167203254596
Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24, 349-354.
Frías, T. M., Shaver, P. R., & Mikulincer, M. (2015). Chapter 15- Measures of Adult Attachment and Related Constructs. Gregory J. Boyle, Donald H. Saklofske, Gerald Matthews, (Eds). Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Constructs. Academic Press, 417-447. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-386915-9.00015-2
Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. New York, NY: Paulist Press.
Stöber, J. (2001). The Social Desirability Scale-17 (SDS-17): Convergent validity, discriminant validity, and relationship with age. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 17(3), 222.
Wei, M., Russell, D., Mallinckrodt, B., & Vogel, D. (2007). The Experiences in Close Relationship Scale (ECR)-Short Form: Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 88, 187-204. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223890701268041
Welburn, Ken. (2015). Welburn Empathic Concern Scale. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.1.2790.1521
Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G., & Farley, G.K. (1988). The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52, 30-41.