Development of the Generic Situational Strength (GSS) Scale: Measuring situational strength in work settings and beyond

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePosterAcademic


Theoretical background:
Situational strength has been discussed as a determinant of when and how personality expresses itself in behaviors. Mischel (1968) claimed that the way personality translates into behavior depends on the strength of the situation. Specifically, strong situations restrict behavioral variance and thus prevent personality from being expressed. In other words, situations are paramount when they are strong, whereas personality should matter more for behavioral expressions when situations are weak.
Meyer and colleagues (2010) conceptualized situational strength on four dimensions. Consequences refer to the extent to which an individual's actions have important outcomes; Constraints refer to the amount of behavioral/decisional restriction placed on an individual; Clarity refers to the extent to which cues and instructions of the situation are clear; whereas Consistency refers to the extent to which various behavioral cues are compatible with each other. Accordingly, they developed the Situational Strength at Work scale (SSW; Meyer et al., 2014), distinguishing between these four dimensions to measure situational strength in the workplace. Despite the undeniable contributions of the scale, notable issues exist: (a) there is conceptual and empirical overlap between the Clarity and Consistency dimensions, and more importantly, (b) the scale is only applicable to work settings, yet a generic situational strength measure is lacking.

We thereby developed the Generic Situational Strength (GSS) scale aiming to be applied across different contexts. We began with re-conceptualization of the constructs and item generation. Our initial pool of 48 items included a balanced mix of positively or negatively phrased items aligned with the four dimensions of situational strength in prior work. Later, we invited domain experts in either personality psychology or psychology of situations to review the scale. Next, a panel of judges (N = 60) were invited to vet the content adequacy of the scale, wherein items’ content validity was further examined. Subsequently, the scale was administered to various work or interpersonal situations reported by 310 U.S. participants. With the data obtained, we first examined the scale’s dimensionality. Next, item-level analyses were conducted for item selection purposes. We then conducted CFA on the final scale and inspected measurement invariance between work vs. interpersonal situations. The scale’s internal reliability, convergent, and discriminant validity were also examined.

Exploratory factor analyses clearly showed two major and interpretable factors: Consequences and Constraints. For Clarity and Consistency, however, items loaded on the same factors, such that positively phrased Clarity and Consistency items loaded on a single factor, as were their negatively phrased items, suggesting that the two factors are indistinguishable. Also, the three- and four-factor models differed only slightly on fit indices and information criteria. Moreover, in the four-factor model where Clarity and Consistency were treated as distinct factors, the latent correlation between the two was high (>.90). We thus decided to adopt the three-factor model by treating ‘Clarity-Consistency’ as a single factor.

Next, item-level analysis was performed where we examined items’ standard deviations, convergent and discriminant correlations with the corresponding or respective other dimensions measured by the SSW scale. Together with factor loadings, we applied a weighted sum approach to integrate all information for item culling.

The three-factor model with the final items showed an acceptable fit, chi^2(249)=760.50, p<.001; RMSEA=.082; SRMR=.084; CFI=.87; TLI=.85. In measurement invariance tests across different situations, configural, metric, and scalar invariance all held, suggesting that situational strength can be meaningfully construed and tested across different situations. Additionally, since half items were reversely phrased, we also fit a bifactor model by having all reverse-coded items load on an additional method factor. The bifactor model demonstrated a considerably better fit to the data, chi^2(235)=434.83, p<.001; RMSEA=.051; SRMR=.051; CFI=.95; TLI=.95.

Both Cronbach’s alpha and omega indicated high internal reliability of the subscales. Finally, as construct validity tests, we examined the current measure's relationships with the Situational Strength at Work scale (SSW; Meyer et al., 2014), as well as the five dimensions of situational interdependence captured in the Situational Interdependence Scale (SIS; Gerpott et al., 2017).

This presentation will introduce the development of the Generic Situational Strength (GSS) scale that can be applied to measure situational strength in various situations, in the workplace and beyond. This scale can be an important starting point for more systematic research on situational strength and person-situation interactions.

Also, by providing an overview of the key steps involved and illustrating the procedure of our scale development journey, we hope to render insight to those who are interested in scale development research. Furthermore, we proposed an objective and customizable measure for item selection, integrating items’ factor loadings, standard deviations, and convergent and discriminant validity. This approach can be applied in future scale construction practices.

Intended audience:
The current presentation is suitable for an academic audience, especially those interested in personality psychology, psychology of situations, organizational behavior, and/or scale development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
EventEAWOP 2022 congress - Glasgow (canceled due to covid)
Duration: 11 Jan 202214 Jan 2022


ConferenceEAWOP 2022 congress


  • Situational strength
  • scale development
  • psychology of situations


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