Experimental Methods in Psychology

By Gustav Levine; Stanley Parkinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Social Psychology II: The Measurement of Attitudes and Construction of Tests for Research

As seen in chapter 13, the principal question in the cognitive dissonance literature concerns the conditions that promote attitude change. Therefore, the dependent variable is almost always some attitude measurement. The measurement of attitudes is a frequent dependent variable in many areas of social psychology. Special tests are constructed on these occasions. Learning how to construct tests, of whatever sort, is useful information. In this chapter the most frequently used measurement techniques are described, along with detailed instructions on their use. The focus here is on assessing attitudes, but the same methods and concerns are appropriate for the construction of most psychological tests.

There are two very different ways in which attitudes are measured: questionnaires and behavioral indices. The questionnaire approach is examined first, in a discussion of the two most frequently used types of questionnaires, Likert scales and the semantic differential. These questionnaires yield an index of the extent to which subjects approve of, agree with, or believe some statement, or feel a mood or emotion that the statement describes, or approve of a person or a plan. Likert scales give the subject an opportunity for very direct expression of attitudes, whereas the semantic differential measures endorsement of attitudes in a more subtle way.

Both of these rating scales can be contrasted with another type of questionnaire that is much more indirect. This third approach

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