Can Differential Rapid-Guessing Behavior Lead to Differential Item Functioning?

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This investigation examined whether different rates of rapid guessing between groups could lead to detectable levels of differential item functioning (DIF) in situations where the item parameters were the same for both groups. Two simulation studies were designed to explore this possibility. The groups in Study 1 were simulated to reflect differences between high-stakes and low-stakes conditions, with no rapid guessing in the high-stakes condition. Easy, discriminating items with high rates of rapid guessing by the low-stakes group were detected as showing DIF favoring the high-stakes group when using the Mantel-Haenszel index. The groups in Study 2 were simulated to reflect gender differences in rapid guessing on a low-stakes test. Both groups had some rapid guessing, but the focal group guessed more. Easy items with greater differences in rapid guessing were more likely to be detected as showing DIF. When the group with more rapid guessing had lower mean proficiency, the overall proportion of flagged items was lower but the effect of difference in rapid guessing remained. Our results suggest that there likely are instances in which statistically identified DIF is observed due to the behavioral characteristics of the studied subgroups rather than the content of the items.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.