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Is Fame Fickle, Fleeting, Fluff?. The Reliability and Validity of Individual Differences in Eminence. Introduction. Questions Origins Applications Objections Illustrations Conclusions. Introduction: Questions.

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is fame fickle fleeting fluff

Is Fame Fickle, Fleeting, Fluff?

The Reliability and Validity of Individual Differences in Eminence

  • Questions
  • Origins
  • Applications
  • Objections
  • Illustrations
  • Conclusions
introduction questions
Introduction: Questions
  • Do individual differences in eminent reputation have any psychological utility?
  • Are they reliable?
  • Are they valid?
introduction questions4
Introduction: Questions
  • Or, was Dante correct when he said “Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind, which now comes this way and now comes that, and changes name because it changes quarter”?
introduction origins
Introduction: Origins
  • First use as a psychological variable: Francis Galton’s (1869) operational definition of genius in terms of reputation both contemporaneous and posthumous, viz.
  • “the opinion of contemporaries, revised by posterity  the reputation of a leader of opinion, of an originator, of a man to whom the world deliberately acknowledges itself largely indebted.”
  • Used as an indicator of “genius,” the latter including creativity, leadership, and even sports
introduction applications
Introduction: Applications
  • Historiometric:
    • Cox (1926) etc.
  • Psychometric:
    • IPAR (UC Berkeley) etc.
introduction objections
Introduction: Objections
  • Unreliable? Riddled with too much error to assess anything?
  • Invalid? Does it measure anything psychologically meaningful?
  • Internal Consistency of Composite Measures
  • Temporal Stability of Consecutive Measures
reliability internal consistency
Reliability: Internal Consistency
  • Correlations: Alternative measures exhibit positive and nontrivial intercorrelations
  • Coefficients: Alpha reliabilities of composite measures are uniformly high
  • Factors: Multiple indicators can be adequately fitted by a single-factor model (Galton’s G) with only sporadic and minor method effects (e.g., “difficulty factors”)
reliability temporal stability
Reliability: Temporal Stability
  • “Test-Retest” Correlations
    • Moderate to large
  • Latent-Variable Models
    • Single-factor (Galton’s G)rather than quasi-simplex (autoregressive)
  • Substantive Correlates
  • Methodological Issues
validity substantive correlates
Validity: Substantive Correlates
  • Behavioral (e.g., productivity)
  • Cognitive (e.g., latent inhibition)
  • Dispositional (e.g., motivation)
  • Developmental (e.g., expertise acquisition)
  • Social (e.g., disciplinary networks)
validity methodological issues
Validity: Methodological Issues
  • Eminence measures are contaminated with certain biases, especially those that can be described as
    • demographic (birth year, ethnicity, gender)
    • ideological (liberal versus conservative)
    • attributional (fundamental attribution error)
    • distributional (skewed with long upper tail)
validity methodological issues16
Validity: Methodological Issues
  • Yet these biases
    • are usually small, sometimes even trivial, relative to the entire variance, and
    • can be considerably reduced if not completely obliterated via
      • measurement strategies
      • data transformations
      • statistical controls
  • Simonton, D. K. (1991e). Latent-variable models of posthumous reputation: A quest for Galton’s G. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 607-619.
  • Simonton, D. K. (1998a). Achieved eminence in minority and majority cultures: Convergence versus divergence in the assessments of 294 African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 804-817.
  • Simonton, D. K. (1998c). Fickle fashion versus immortal fame: Transhistorical assessments of creative products in the opera house. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 198-210
conclusions eminence assessments
Conclusions: Eminence assessments
  • are reliable both across measures and across time
  • are valid in the sense that they capture individual differences in behavioral, cognitive, personality, and developmental variables
  • yet they usually require the introduction of corrections to remove or control for various biases and contaminants
Or as Thomas Carlyle once said, “Fame, we may understand, is no sure test of merit, but only a probability of such.”

but with the addition that this probability is reasonably high, as high was holds for most other individual-difference instruments