Application of Item Response Theory to Tests of Substance-related Associative Memory

Student Co-author

CGU Graduate

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Mental and Social Health | Substance Abuse and Addiction


A substance-related word-association test (WAT) is one of the commonly used indirect tests of substance-related implicit associative memory and has been shown to predict substance use. This study applied an item response theory (IRT) modeling approach to evaluate psychometric properties of the alcohol- and marijuana-related WATs and their items among 775 ethnically diverse at-risk adolescents. After examining the IRT assumptions, item fit, and differential item functioning (DIF) across gender and age groups, the original 18 WAT items were reduced to 14 and 15 items in the alcohol- and marijuana-related WAT, respectively. Thereafter, unidimensional one- and two-parameter logistic models (1PL and 2PL models) were fitted to the revised WAT items. The results demonstrated that both alcohol- and marijuana-related WATs have good psychometric properties. These results were discussed in light of the framework of a unified concept of construct validity (Messick, 1975, 1989, 1995).

Rights Information

© 2014 American Psychological Association