Methods used to measure the Attitude

Techniques used to measure the Attitude

Techniques used to measure the Attitude

The following points highlight the top five techniques used to measure the attitude of an individual. The techniques are: 1. Method of Equal Appearing Interval 2. Method of Summated Rating 3. Social Distance Scale 4. Cumulative Scaling Method 5. The Scale Discriminating Technique.

Technique # 1. Method of Equal Appearing Interval:

It is developed by L. L. Thurstone and Chave (1929) it is the earliest technique of attitude measurement. This technique of equal appearing interval used in the scaling of psychophysical dimensions was used by Thurstone for the construction of attitude scales to measure attitude towards various subjects or towards any object.

This is why, Thurstone’s scale has been accepted and used widely by various researches for attitude measurement.

The scale is prepared in the following manner:

  1. A large number of simple, easily understood statements or propositions showing a favourable or unfavourable attitude towards the attitudinal object are collected.
  2. Judges are asked to sort out in a desired number of steps on a scale on the basis of the degree to which they express favourable or unfavourable attitudes towards the object. All those statements having insufficient agreement are rejected. Only those statements having considerable agreement among the judges relating to their position on the scale are retained in the final scale.
  3. Scale scoring is done on the basis of median value of judgements. Final selection is made on the basis of equal appearing intervals.

In Thurstone’s scale there are eleven categories where judges have to put their judgement in equal distances so as to fit the eleven categories. The low values indicate a favourable attitude towards the attitudinal object and the high values suggest an unfavourable attitude.

Bogardus did not take care to ensure the quality of units. This was considered to be a serious defect in his scale. To eliminate this drawback, Thurstone took eleven pieces of equal appearing intervals.

The eleven lines or equally appearing intervals are infact the units of Thurstone’s scale. His scale is said to be a rational scale since he attempted to achieve equality of units by requiring the judges to place items in eleven lines at equal appearing intervals.

Defects of Thurstone’s Scale

The probability of the attitude of judges influencing their placement of judgements in various positions on the scale cannot be ruled out. In fact, Hovland and Sherif have found proofs in this regard in a particular study.

Thurstone has attempted to account for zero point in a scale, but has not been able to meet the requirements satisfactorily.

Thurston’s scale lacked in unique dimensions. Edward points out that the items having the same scale value may have significantly a different discriminating value. In this technique, thus, the investigator is not able to select the most discriminating item among those having approximately the same scale values. This, infact, will give a distorted picture of the attitude of the subject instead of measuring it accurately.

However, modern research has found out ways and means to overcome these shortcomings. Hence, inspite of the defects, Thurstone’s scale demonstrates a technique to measure attitude in a reliable manner.

Technique # 2. Method of Summated Rating:

Developed by Likert the attitude scale prepared by the method of summated rating has an entirely different approach. Likert is famous for constructing several attitude scales to measure attitude towards various complex issues, like Black and White Problem, imperialism and various other international problems.

The procedure of preparation of Likerts’ scale is given below briefly:

A large number of statements and propositions are collected relating to the issue. These statements are then presented to a group of subjects to rate them into five categories. Such as:

  1. Strongly approve-1
  2. Approve-2
  3. Undecided-3
  4. Disapprove-4
  5. Strongly disapprove-5.

The ‘S’ is asked to give his score with regard to each statement on this basis of five point scale. Then, the total score for each individual subject for all the statement is calculated by summing up each individual responses.

Thereafter, inter correlating the scores of each item, with the total scores on all the items by the item analysis techniques, the most discriminating items are selected and eliminated. Only those items having highest correlations arc retained for the final scale.

Advantages of Likerts’ Scale:

The use of ‘Item Analysis’ in the construction of attitude scale is the most important feature of Likert’s scale. In this scale, the individual scores are interpreted in terms of the scores obtained by a group of individual which is commonly done in a psychological test construction.

Likert’s scale is more pragmatic than Thurstone’s scale. It is based on the selection of items in terms of how well they work. Likert did not depend only on the subjective judgements of the individuals, like Thurstone.

He also constructed his scale on the basis of the inter correlation found between items and retained only those items having higher interrelationship. Likert’s scale has got good amount of workability than Thurstone’s. In this scale unique dimensionality is also not disturbed.

Defects of Likerts’ Scale:
  1. No attempt has been made to ensure equality of unity in the Likert’s scale. The scores obtained at the upper and lower end of the scale are usually more meaningful than the intermediate range of scores as the score making the neutral point is unknown.
  2. The minimum scores in the Likert’s scale indicate a favourable attitude, while the maximum scores indicate an unfavourable attitude which is sometimes confusing.
  3. There is no determination of zero point in this scale.

Inspite of these defects, Likert’s scale has been widely used for the measurement of attitude in view of the application of item analysis technique for construction of attitude scale which is one of its major advantages over other scales.

Technique # 3. Social Distance Scale:

The concept of social distance was given prominence by Katz and Allport under the guidance of Gallet and Bogardus. Bogardus was interested in studying racial attitudes, attitudes of people towards different races, towards different nationalities and comparing them through his social distance scale. The procedure of the construction of the scale is as follows.

The investigator first formulates various statements indicating different degrees of acceptance or rejection of the group. The ‘S’ has to indicate how close or how far away he is from the members of the other group. The distance measured by these statements are basically psychological.

A favourable attitude is indicated by the closeness and an unfavourable attitude is indicated by distance. The greater is the distance, the greater is anti attitude and the less is the distance the greater is the pro attitude. The psychological distance is progressively increased in the scale as one proceeds from the first to the last statement starting from close kinship by marriage to exclusion from the country.

In this manner, by the Bogardus scale attitude is measured towards different nationalities.


As a method it has two defects:

  1. It means merely temporary attitudes,
  2. Bogardus did not make any attempt to ensure equality of units.

The differences between each of the degrees of intimacy is not recognisable. The psychological distance between relation in marriage and a club is much greater than that existing between club relations and neighbouring relations.

The distance between two points in the scale, hence, is not equal or adequate and hence, lacks in dimension of units and exhaustiveness of the measuring index. Bogardus’s scale simply measures the range and distribution of attitude and not its intensity.


This scale has been very widely and quite successfully applied in various studies of attitude measurement. The technique of construction of the scale is quite simple. The scale is used to compare different people’s attitudes towards the same nationality or a single individual’s attitude towards different nationalities.

By this scale any kind of interpersonal likes and dislikes can be measured. Actually, many new scales have been developed based on the Bogardus Social Distance Scale.

Technique # 4. Cumulative Scaling Method:

Guttman’s cumulative scaling method (1944) is devised to find out if the sets of statements and propositions used to measure attitudes can actually satisfy the necessary conditions of a particular type of scale. The main aim of this scaling technique is to determine whether the attitude in question is “scalable” or not.

An attitude is said to be scalable when a major proportion of the population being measured responds to the scale in a consistent way. When an item it endorsed by the endorsement of all other items that are less extreme and rejection of all those items that are more extreme, it indicates the criterion of consistency.

In Guttmans scale, plotting of scale scores were made on the horizontal lines. Guttman’s technique involves a ‘Scalogram’ device for ascertaining the degree of consistency that is present. According to Guttman, when significant consistency is shown by a set of items or propositions, the scale is unidimensional and hence, is expected to measure attitude reliably.

But in the reverse case one has to infer that there is more than one dimension underlying the scale. At this point, by using this method of Guttman the offending items can be eliminated and the scale can be revised and corrected to meet this criterion of consistency.

Guttman’s scale helps in determining the zero point. It is also based on the criteria of unique dimensionality.

Some have questioned the concept of equality of units and the basis of it. The limited practical usefulness of this technique has also been raised by Festinger (1947) who remarks “Limited experience with its use in public opinion research with civilian population has tended to show that it becomes an unwieldy instrument”. But this criticism is also applicable to other methods.

Technique # 5. The Scale Discriminating Technique:

This scale has been developed by Edwards and Kilpartic. It is the synthesis of the various earlier techniques.

Like the other scales, a large number of dichotomous items are collected. Judges then group the items in categories as per their degree of favourableness. Others are discarded because of ambiguity.

The retained items are then presented in a multiple choice form with six response categories starting from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Then, these statements are served to new groups of subjects. Their responses are scored individually to derive a total score for each person.

Like the Likert Scale ‘Item analysis’ technique is applied on each item. The final scale consists of those items having good discriminating capacity. Then, the selected items are dichotomised and subjected to scaling as followed by Guttman.

It is a very laborious procedure and perhaps because of that the scale discrimination technique has not been used in a large scale in psychological researches for the measurement of attitude. So, the advantages and defects of scale are yet to be traced. Future research on this scale may throw light.

Some other techniques of attitude measurement have been developed. We may discuss here Semantic differential Scaling method. This is constructed by Osgood, Sui and Tennenbaum (1957). This scale is used to obtain direct measures of the evaluation of an attitude object.

The meaning of an object in this technique is rated on a series of bipolar adjectives indicating that they are opposite to each other. For instance, nuclear disarmament might be rated along the following dimensions good-bad, attractive-non attractive, fair-unfair etc.

Then each point is given a scale value to quantify a person’s overall reaction to the attitudinal object. The virtue of such a technique is that it taps the respondents’ general understanding of an attitudinal objects rather than specific aspects of this object.

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