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The Factor Analysis of African Abilities and Attainments: Constructs across Cultures USPHS

Irvine, Sidney H.
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Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
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Subject/Key Words:
Institute for Social Research, United States Public Health Service (USPHS), University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Academic Aptitude, Africa, Cross-Cultural Studies, Cultural Influences, Factor Analysis, Males, Test Interpretation


This paper is based on the results of experimental investigations in east and central Africa, involving field studies of over 5,000 subjects. It illustrates the application of factor analysis in the search for the psychological and descriptive meaning of test scores derived from African subjects taking tests adapted from those currently in use in Western societies or standardized on African subjects. Results suggest that although tests tend consistently to group themselves together in ways explicable in terms of Western constructs such as g, v:ed and n:ed, sources of variance exist unique to the environment of the society in which the tests are administered. Of particular note are the identification of an educational aptitude factor associated with males, and the less stable nature of perceptual and spatial factors. Discussion centers on the contribution of the study towards a cross-cultural interpretation of educational abilities in terms of a limited transfer of a value system in which the concept of intelligence is a key term.

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