Distinguishing Constructs from Variables in Designing Research

Bobby J. Calder*, C. Miguel Brendl, Alice M. Tybout, Brian Sternthal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Current research practices often conflate theoretical constructs and explanatory hypotheses with variables and predicted effects, to the detriment of research progress. This has led to the use of procedures such as manipulation checks, mediation analysis, and boundary conditions predicated on the idea that matching constructs to variables is necessary to validate that a theory corresponds to an effect. An alternative perspective, Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE), calls for designing research to exploit the power of distinguishing constructs from variables, hypotheses from predictions, and theory from effects. IBE calls for stating hypotheses (Hs) about construct-to-construct relationships and, separately, the predictions (Ps) about variable-to-variable effects that are explained by the hypotheses. In addition, articles should include disparate effects, a single explanation covering all studies, and a discussion of the use of the research in specific problem contexts. The application of IBE is illustrated with research investigating when judgments are based on a feeling about the ease of information retrieval versus the information content itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-208
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Applying research
  • Boundary conditions
  • Constructs versus variables
  • Manipulation checks
  • Mediation analysis
  • Theory versus effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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