Background – The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a Socially Extended Mind Inventory (SEMI). The SEMI was designed to measure the extent to which individuals utilize their significant others to fulfill functions in various areas of their lives.
Methods – A mixed methods approach was used that included a qualitative investigation of socially extended mind phenomena for item development and a quantitative study of these initial items that included factor extraction and determination of measure statistical validity. Data for the qualitative phase were obtained from four couples who were in a long-term relationship and were interviewed about how each partner enhances and expands their significant other’s functioning. The qualitative data were analyzed with direct content analysis. The qualitative analysis yielded 70 items. Data for the quantitative phase were obtained from a sample of 377 participants who were English speaking and in a long-term relationship. Participants in the quantitative phase were asked to complete the initial 70-item-version of the SEMI and answer a set of demographic questions. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used for factor extraction and Cronbach’s alpha was computed to assess internal reliability.
Results – Results indicated that the SEMI is a multidimensional inventory with potential research and clinical uses. The first EFA solution yielded 12 factors with eigenvalues greater than 1, which cumulatively explained 65.7% of the total variance. Of those 12 factors, 5 had eigenvalues greater than 2. Five factors (eigenvalues < 2) were extracted, which produced a clear five-factor solution. 10 items were excluded due to low factor loading and redundancy. The SEMI had excellent internal reliability for the entire inventory (the 60 retained items, α = 0.96).
Conclusions – Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to develop the SEMI, selected for their capacity to adequately respond to research challenges. Using a mixed methods approach for the development of the SEMI allowed the establishment of a more holistic understanding of how individuals utilize their significant others to enhance their cognitive, emotional, social and instrumental functioning.