Using Multiple Methods to Assess Different Predictors of an Outcome Variable

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Many classical studies in health psychology test the various health behavior models that have been proposed since the 1970s. The most prominent models include structural models such as the health belief model (Becker, 1974; Rosenstock, 1974), the theory of reasoned action/planned behavior (Ajzen & Fish-bein, 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), and the protection motivation theory (Rogers, 1983), as well as more dynamic health behavior models that describe the processes of health behavior change such as the transtheoretical (stages of change) model (Pro-chaska & DiClemente, 1984). All models conceptualize health behavior as being predicted by a variety of social-cognitive factors, including risk perception or perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, outcome-expectancies, perceived self-efficacy, attitude, intention, and so on. Numerous studies have been conducted testing the various models in different areas of health behavior (smoking, exercise, safer sexual behaviors, alcohol, etc.). Most of these studies, by nature, use solely self-report measures (questionnaires or psychometric scales) for assessing the predictor variables because these are social-cognitive variables that are difficult to assess using other methodologies.

In contrast, studies predicting health outcomes, such as morbidity or mortality, usually include predictor variables at different levels: physiological, social, and psychological. A recent example is a study by Niaura and colleagues (Niaura et al., 2002), who used people's responses to a hostility questionnaire, anthropometric data, serum lipids, fasting insulin concentrations, blood pressure, and self-reported nicotine, alcohol and caloric consumption to predict the incidence of coronary heart disease in older men. Obviously, studies such as this one are not multimethod studies in the sense of Campbell and Fiske (1959), which requests establishing evidence of constructs by using multiple methods for each. In fact, the combination of multiple methods (e.g., physiological and self-report) in studies like the one just described is neither used to scrutinize construct validity nor to capitalize on the combination of multiple methods. Rather, multiple constructs are assessed to maximize the amount of explained variance in the criterion variable (in this case the incidence of coronary heart disease). The combined uses of physiological, endocrinological, and self-report methods do not serve the purpose of assessing different dimensions of the same construct.

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