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Toward a unified framework for the study of between-person and within-person structures

Building a bridge between two research paradigms

The vast majority of empirical research in the behavioral sciences is based on the analysis of between-person variation. In contrast, much of applied psychology is concerned with the analysis of variation within individuals. Furthermore, the mechanisms specified by psychological theories generally operate within, rather than across, individuals. This disconnect between research practice, applied demands, and psychological theories constitutes a major threat to the conceptual integrity of the field.

Following groundbreaking earlier work, we propose a conceptual framework that distinguishes within-person (WP) and between-person (BP) sources of variation in psychological constructs. By simultaneously considering both sources of variation, it is shown how to identify possible reasons for nonequivalence of BP and WP structures as well as establishing areas of convergence.

For this purpose, we first introduce the concept of conditional equivalence as a way to study partial structural equivalence of BP and WP structures in the presence of unconditional nonequivalence. Second, we demonstrate the construction of likelihood planes to explore the causes of structural nonequivalence. Third, we examine 4 common causes for unconditional nonequivalence-autoregression, subgroup differences, linear trends, and cyclic trends-and demonstrate how to account for them. Fourth, we provide an empirical example on BP and WP differences in attentiveness.

Voelkle, Manuel C.; Brose, Annette; Schmiedek, Florian; Lindenberger, Ulman. Toward a unified framework for the study of between-person and within-person structures, in: Multivariate Behavioral Research, 49 (2014) 3, 193-213

last modified Apr 15, 2015