The Measurement of Attitude

Summary of the Measurement Method

L. L. Thurstone

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We have tried to devise a method whereby the distribution of attitude of a group on a specified issue may be represented in the form of a frequency distribution. The base line represents ideally the whole range of attitudes from those at one end who are most strongly in favor of the issue to those at the other end of the scale who are as strongly against it. Somewhere between the two extremes on the base line will be a neutral zone representing indifferent attitudes on the issue in question. The ordinates of the frequency distribution represent the relative popularity of each attitude.

This measurement problem has the limitation which is common to all measurement, namely, that one can measure only such attributes as can be represented on a linear continuum, such at-tributes as volume, price, length, area, excellence, beauty, and so on. For the present problem we are limited to those aspects of attitudes for which one can compare individuals by the "more and less" type of judgment. For example, we say understandingly that one man is more in favor of prohibition than another, more strongly in favor of the League of Nations than another, more militaristic than some other, more religious than another. The measurement is effected by the indorsement or rejection of statements of opinion.

The opinions are allocated to different positions on the base line in accordance with the attitudes which they express. The ordinates of the frequency distribution are determined by the frequency with which each of the scaled opinions is indorsed. The center of the whole problem lies in the definition of a unit of measurement for the base line. The scale is so constructed that two opinions separated by a unit distance on the base line seem to differ as much in the attitude variable involved as any other two

( xii) opinions on the scale which are also separated by a unit distance. This is the main idea of the present scale construction.

The true allocation of an individual to a position on an attitude scale is an abstraction, just as the true length of a chalk line, or the true temperature of a room, or the true spelling ability of a child is an abstraction. We estimate the true length of a line, the true temperature of a room, or the true spelling ability of a child by means of various indices, and it is a commonplace in measurement that all indices do not agree exactly. In allocating an individual to a point on the attitude continuum we may use various indices, such as the opinions that he indorses, his overt acts, and his past history, and it is to be expected that discrepancies will appear as the "true" attitude of the individual is estimated by different indic s The present study is concerned with the allocation of individuals along an attitude continuum based on the opinions that they accept or reject.

We are not at all sure that the method we have used is theoretically correct or that it is the best psychophysical method of measuring attitude. It is possible that the method of equal-appearing intervals that we have used in these experiments may be superseded by better psychophysical methods. Our main purpose will have been achieved, however, if we succeed in directing attention to the possibility of measuring attitude as a psychophysical problem. In doing so we are but extending the pioneer work of Cattell, who was the first to apply psychophysical methods to the measurement of social values.



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