Examining Face Validity of Visual Stimuli Used in Preference Assessments for Older Adults With Communication Impairments

Vanessa L. Burshnic-Neal, Kelly Knollman-Porter, Rachel H. Topper, Eleanor S. McConnell, Kimberly Vanhaitsma, Katherine M. Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Preference assessment is integral to person-centered treatment planning for older adults with communication impairments. There is a need to validate photographs used in preference assessment for this population. Therefore, this study aimed to establish preliminary face validity of photographs selected to enhance comprehension of questions from the Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory–Nursing Home (PELI-NH) and describe themes in older adults’ recommendations for revising photographic stimuli. Method: This qualitative, cognitive interviewing study included 21 participants with an average age of 75 years and no known cognitive or communication deficits. Photographic stimuli were randomized and evaluated across one to two interview sessions. Participants were asked to describe what the preference stimuli represented to them. Responses were scored to assess face validity. Participants were then shown the PELI-NH written prompt and asked to evaluate how well the photograph(s) represented the preference. A semideductive thematic analysis was conducted on interview transcripts to summarize themes in participant feedback. Results: Forty-six (64%) stimuli achieved face validity criteria without revisions. Six (8%) stimuli achieved face validity after one partial revision. Twenty (28%) stimuli required multiple revisions and reached feedback saturation, requiring team review for finalization. Thematic analysis revealed challenges interpreting stimuli (e.g., multiple meanings) and participant preferences for improving photographs (e.g., aesthetics). Conclusions: Cognitive interviewing was useful for improving face validity of stimuli pertaining to personal care topics. Abstract and subjective preferences (e.g., cultural traditions) may be more challenging to represent. This study provides a framework for further testing with older adults with cognitive, communication, and hearing impairments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1318
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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