Linking self-perceived cognitive functioning questionnaires using item response theory: The subjective cognitive decline initiative

Neuropsychology. 2023 May;37(4):463-499. doi: 10.1037/neu0000888.


Objective: Self-perceived cognitive functioning, considered highly relevant in the context of aging and dementia, is assessed in numerous ways-hindering the comparison of findings across studies and settings. Therefore, the present study aimed to link item-level self-report questionnaire data from international aging studies.

Method: We harmonized secondary data from 24 studies and 40 different questionnaires with item response theory (IRT) techniques using a graded response model with a Bayesian estimator. We compared item information curves to identify items with high measurement precision at different levels of the self-perceived cognitive functioning latent trait. Data from 53,030 neuropsychologically intact older adults were included, from 13 English language and 11 non-English (or mixed) language studies.

Results: We successfully linked all questionnaires and demonstrated that a single-factor structure was reasonable for the latent trait. Items that made the greatest contribution to measurement precision (i.e., "top items") assessed general and specific memory problems and aspects of executive functioning, attention, language, calculation, and visuospatial skills. These top items originated from distinct questionnaires and varied in format, range, time frames, response options, and whether they captured ability and/or change.

Conclusions: This was the first study to calibrate self-perceived cognitive functioning data of geographically diverse older adults. The resulting item scores are on the same metric, facilitating joint or pooled analyses across international studies. Results may lead to the development of new self-perceived cognitive functioning questionnaires guided by psychometric properties, content, and other important features of items in our item bank. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires