A critical study of the Thurstone technique of social attitude measurement




Gentry, Marie Elizabeth Faddis

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To Thurstone belongs the credit for applying psychophysical method to the scaling of attitude. The three methods that he has utilized for this purpose are the method of paired comparison, the order of merit method, and the method of equal appearing intervals. The Law of Comparative Judgment, formulated by him in 1927, gives us a method of handling the method of paired comparison, so that it satisfies the criterion of internal consistency. But this method involves the use of every stimulus as a standard, and hence is very laborious if the stimuli are numerous. The order of merit method likewise is practically justified only when there are few stimuli to be ranked, that is, not more than twenty. Thurstone has devised a technique for this method whereby it is possible to utilize the Law of Comparative Judgment. This involves the extraction of the proportion of judgments "A is greater than B" for every possible pair of stimuli in the given series. [...] When it is desired to scale a great many stimuli the method of equal appearing intervals is the only one practicable. This procedure Thurstone has applied to the scaling of attitudes toward the church, toward the movies, and toward other social issues. [...] The purposes of this study are the following: (1) to construct a scale by the method of equal appearing intervals, varying some of the conditions of Thurstone's procedure, in order to determine whether the labor involved could be decreased without decreasing at the same time the reliability of the resulting scale; (2) to compare the method of equal appearing intervals with the order of merit method; and (3) to construct a scale of the attitude toward smoking. We hoped that by carrying out these steps we could make a critical analysis of Thurstone's technique of scaling attitude