Definitions for factor analysis

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Princeton's WordNet

  1. factor analysis(noun)

    any of several methods for reducing correlational data to a smaller number of dimensions or factors; beginning with a correlation matrix a small number of components or factors are extracted that are regarded as the basic variables that account for the interrelations observed in the data

Freebase

  1. Factor analysis

    Factor analysis is a statistical method used to describe variability among observed, correlated variables in terms of a potentially lower number of unobserved variables called factors. In other words, it is possible, for example, that variations in three or four observed variables mainly reflect the variations in fewer unobserved variables. Factor analysis searches for such joint variations in response to unobserved latent variables. The observed variables are modelled as linear combinations of the potential factors, plus "error" terms. The information gained about the interdependencies between observed variables can be used later to reduce the set of variables in a dataset. Computationally this technique is equivalent to low rank approximation of the matrix of observed variables. Factor analysis originated in psychometrics, and is used in behavioral sciences, social sciences, marketing, product management, operations research, and other applied sciences that deal with large quantities of data. Factor analysis is related to principal component analysis, but the two are not identical. Latent variable models, including factor analysis, use regression modelling techniques to test hypotheses producing error terms, while PCA is a descriptive statistical technique. There has been significant controversy in the field over the equivalence or otherwise of the two techniques.

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