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Measurements of Attitudes | AQA B Psychology
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Measurements of Attitudes

How do we know what people’s attitudes are? How do we measure attitudes? How would you measure someones attitude towards the re-introduction of the Death Penalty?

Projective Techniques (Indirect Measures)

Take advantage of the fact that people often project their own attitudes on to others. Example, Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): subjects are presented with a series of pictures and are asked to fill in speech bubbles to describe what is going on. How they are interpreted reveals peoples attitudes.


  • Easy to conduct quick indication of persons attitudes
  • No pressure to conform
  • More specific to the individual


  • Experimenter bias (interpretation subjective)
  • Not precise enough
  • Vague expectations of what to do
  • Qualitative rather than quantitative

Likert Scale (Direct Measures)

A set of approximately 30 statements are prepared about a topic, representing both a pro and anti-social views. The subject rates each statement on a 5 or 7 point scale. The attitude is scored by totalling the scores from each statement.


  • Item analysis – break down into different items
  • Quantitative information
  • Easy to gather and sort out information
  • Find out information with direct questions (demand characteristics answering what your think is expected of you)


  • Interpretation of undecided
  • Tendency to middle answers, follow down the middle
  • Lie and bias results
  • Social desirability
  • Differences in individual interpretations of questions

Semantic Differential Technique

Osgood, Suci and Tannenbaum (1957) provide a measure of attitude strength to the individual. This involves the rating of an attitude object (person or thing) on a seven point scale. This is made up of numerous pairs of bi-polar adjectives (extreme opposites of each other)


  • Shows the feelings of the individual affective
  • Shows if feelings are powerful or weak
  • Shows feelings on various aspects of a topic


  • Doesn’t give much information
  • Not accurate/unclear and subject may lie
  • Difficult to measure attitudes if feeling is neutral

Why is there discrepancy?

  • Specificity, Davidson and Jaccard (1979) how specific we are in measuring attitudes behaviour. La Piere – letters, measure general prejudice. Behaviour, measure specifically.

If measure of attitude and behaviour is specific less discrepancy

  • Behaviour is singular – compared with general attitudes
  • Attitudes and behaviour need to be at the same time (not 6 months later) – Schwatz (1978)
  • Personal and situations factors – example, peer pressure
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