Journal article

Putting the individual into reliability: Bayesian testing of homogeneous within-person variance in hierarchical models

November 2021

Published in:

Behavior Research Methods.

By: Donald Williams, Stephen Martin, Phillipe Rast


Measurement reliability is a fundamental concept in psychology. It is traditionally considered a stable property of a questionnaire, measurement device, or experimental task. Although intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) are often used to assess reliability in repeated measure designs, their descriptive nature depends upon the assumption of a common within-person variance. This work focuses on the presumption that each individual is adequately described by the average within-person variance in hierarchical models. And thus whether reliability generalizes to the individual level, which leads directly into the notion of individually varying ICCs. In particular, we introduce a novel approach, using the Bayes factor, wherein a researcher can directly test for homogeneous within-person variance in hierarchical models. Additionally, we introduce a membership model that allows for classifying which (and how many) individuals belong to the common variance model. The utility of our methodology is demonstrated on cognitive inhibition tasks. We find that heterogeneous within-person variance is a defining feature of these tasks, and in one case, the ratio between the largest to smallest within-person variance exceeded 20. This translates into a tenfold difference in person-specific reliability! We also find that few individuals belong to the common variance model, and thus traditional reliability indices are potentially masking important individual variation. We discuss the implications of our findings and possible future directions. The methods are implemented in the R package vICC

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This article was published outside of NWEA. The full text can be found at the link above.

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