The FACTOR Procedure

Heywood Cases and Other Anomalies about Communality Estimates

Since communalities are squared correlations, you would expect them always to lie between 0 and 1. It is a mathematical peculiarity of the common factor model, however, that final communality estimates might exceed 1. If a communality equals 1, the situation is referred to as a Heywood case, and if a communality exceeds 1, it is an ultra-Heywood case. An ultra-Heywood case implies that some unique factor has negative variance, a clear indication that something is wrong. Possible causes include the following:

  • bad prior communality estimates

  • too many common factors

  • too few common factors

  • not enough data to provide stable estimates

  • the common factor model is not an appropriate model for the data

An ultra-Heywood case renders a factor solution invalid. Factor analysts disagree about whether or not a factor solution with a Heywood case can be considered legitimate.

With METHOD=PRINIT, METHOD=ULS, METHOD=ALPHA, or METHOD=ML, the FACTOR procedure, by default, stops iterating and sets the number of factors to 0 if an estimated communality exceeds 1. To enable processing to continue with a Heywood or ultra-Heywood case, you can use the HEYWOOD or ULTRAHEYWOOD option in the PROC FACTOR statement. The HEYWOOD option sets the upper bound of any communality to 1, while the ULTRAHEYWOOD option allows communalities to exceed 1.

Theoretically, the communality of a variable should not exceed its reliability. Violation of this condition is called a quasi-Heywood case and should be regarded with the same suspicion as an ultra-Heywood case.

Elements of the factor structure and reference structure matrices can exceed 1 only in the presence of an ultra-Heywood case. On the other hand, an element of the factor pattern might exceed 1 in an oblique rotation.

The maximum likelihood method is especially susceptible to quasi- or ultra-Heywood cases. During the iteration process, a variable with high communality is given a high weight; this tends to increase its communality, which increases its weight, and so on.

It is often stated that the squared multiple correlation of a variable with the other variables is a lower bound to its communality. This is true if the common factor model fits the data perfectly, but it is not generally the case with real data. A final communality estimate that is less than the squared multiple correlation can, therefore, indicate poor fit, possibly due to not enough factors. It is by no means as serious a problem as an ultra-Heywood case. Factor methods that use the Newton-Raphson method can actually produce communalities less than 0, a result even more disastrous than an ultra-Heywood case.

The squared multiple correlation of a factor with the variables might exceed 1, even in the absence of ultra-Heywood cases. This situation is also cause for alarm. Alpha factor analysis seems to be especially prone to this problem, but it does not occur with maximum likelihood. If a squared multiple correlation is negative, there are too many factors retained.

With data that do not fit the common factor model perfectly, you can expect some of the eigenvalues to be negative. If an iterative factor method converges properly, the sum of the eigenvalues corresponding to rejected factors should be 0; hence, some eigenvalues are positive and some negative. If a principal factor analysis fails to yield any negative eigenvalues, the prior communality estimates are probably too large. Negative eigenvalues cause the cumulative proportion of variance explained to exceed 1 for a sufficiently large number of factors. The cumulative proportion of variance explained by the retained factors should be approximately 1 for principal factor analysis and should converge to 1 for iterative methods. Occasionally, a single factor can explain more than 100 percent of the common variance in a principal factor analysis, indicating that the prior communality estimates are too low.

If a squared canonical correlation or a coefficient alpha is negative, there are too many factors retained.

Principal component analysis, unlike common factor analysis, has none of these problems if the covariance or correlation matrix is computed correctly from a data set with no missing values. Various methods for missing value correlation or severe rounding of the correlations can produce negative eigenvalues in principal components.