Traditionally, multinomial processing tree (MPT) models are applied to groups of homogeneous participants, where all participants within a group are assumed to have identical MPT model parameter values. This assumption is unreasonable when MPT models are used for clinical assessment, and it often may be suspect for applications to ordinary psychological experiments. One method for dealing with parameter variability is to incorporate random effects assumptions into a model. This is achieved by assuming that participants' parameters are drawn independently from some specified multivariate hyperdistribution. In this paper we explore the assumption that the hyperdistribution consists of independent beta distributions, one for each MPT model parameter. These beta-MPT models are 'hierarchical models', and their statistical inference is different from the usual approaches based on data aggregated over participants. The paper provides both classical (frequentist) and hierarchical Bayesian approaches to statistical inference for beta-MPT models. In simple cases the likelihood function can be obtained analytically; however, for more complex cases, Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithms are constructed to assist both approaches to inference. Examples based on clinical assessment studies are provided to demonstrate the advantages of hierarchical MPT models over aggregate analysis in the presence of individual differences. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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