When measuring behavioral outcomes in the social sciences, the personal characteristic to be assessed is called a construct (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955; Messick, 1995). The construct is a proposed attribute of a person that often cannot be measured directly, but can be assessed using a number of indicators or manifest variables.
Constructs are also discussed under other labels, such as theoretical constructs or latent variables, which are interchangeable terms.
Constructs vary in their ease of measurement, with some constructs being relatively easy to assess and others requiring more subtle or indirect measurement.
Some attributes or constructs can be measured directly. In medical settings, direct measurements are often obtained on routine doctor visits.
Direct construct examples:
In the behavioral and social sciences, we usually must use more indirect ways to measure constructs, so we develop a number of items to assess the construct.
Indirect construct examples:
Note: Ease or directness of measurement is not an indicator of how closely related a scale score is to an underlying construct or how important the attribute is for a given problem.