Task sequencing does not systematically affect the factor structure of cognitive abilities

Matthew K. Robison, Xavier Celaya, B. Hunter Ball, Gene A. Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Latent variable analyses of cognitive abilities are among the major means by which cognitive psychologists test theories regarding the structure of human cognition. Models are fit to observed variance-covariance structures, and the fit of those models are compared to assess the merits of competing theories. However, an often unconsidered and potentially important methodological issue is the precise sequence in which tasks are delivered to participants. Here we empirically tested whether differences in task sequences systematically affect the observed factor structure. A large sample (N = 587) completed a battery of 12 cognitive tasks measuring four constructs: working memory, long-term memory, attention control, and fluid intelligence. Participants were assigned to complete the assessment in one of three sequences: fixed and grouped by construct vs. fixed and interleaved across constructs vs. random by participant. We generated and tested two hypotheses: grouping task sequences by construct (i.e., administering clusters of tasks measuring a cognitive construct consecutively) would (1) systematically increase factor loadings and (2) systematically decrease interfactor correlations. Neither hypothesis was supported. The measurement models were largely invariant across the three conditions, suggesting that latent variable analyses are robust to such subtle methodological differences as task sequencing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention control
  • Fluid intelligence
  • Individual differences
  • Long-term memory
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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