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Guttman scale

 

Explanations > Social ResearchMeasurement > Guttman scale

Description | Example | Question selection | Discussion | See also

 

Description

A Guttman scale presents a number of items to which the person is requested to agree or not agree. This is typically done in a 'Yes/No' dichotomous format. It is also possible to use a Likert scale, although this is less commonly used.

Questions in a Guttman scale gradually increase in specificity. The intent of the scale is that the person will agree with all statements up to a point and then will stop agreeing.

The scale may be used to determine how extreme a view is, with successive statements showing increasingly extremist positions.

If needed, the escalation can be concealed by using intermediate questions.

Example

 

Place a check-mark against all statements` with which you agree  
I like eating out [  ]
I like going to restaurants [  ]
I like going to themed restaurants [  ]
I like going to Chinese restaurants [  ]
I like going to Beijing-style Chinese restaurants [  ]

 

Concealed example (hardening attitude towards crime), using Likert scale:

  Strongly
agree
Tend to
agree
Neither
agree
nor
disagree
Tend to
disagree
Strongly
disagree
Criminals should be punished [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ]
Litter is a problem in the street [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ]
Sentences for many crimes should be longer [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ]
Streets in this town are not well lit [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ]
More criminals deserve the death penalty [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ] [  ]

 

Question selection

  1. Generate a list of possible statements.
  2. Get a set of judges to score the statements with a Yes or No, depending on whether they agree or disagree with them.
  3. Draw up a table with the respondent in rows and statements in columns, showing whether they answered Yes or No.
  4. Sort the columns so the statement with the most Yes's is on the left.
  5. Sort the rows so the respondent with the most Yes's is at the top.
  6. Select a set of questions that have the least set of 'holes' (No's between 'Yes's).

Discussion

The Guttman scale was first described by Louis Guttman in in 1944. It allows progressive investigation in the nature of interview probing, such that you can find out to what degree respondents agree with a concept or principle. The group of questions seek to investigate just one factor or trait.

There is a danger with this that respondents feel committed by earlier questions and seek to sustain consistency and thus agree with more than they really believe. They may also fear being drawn into an extreme position and hence hold back. This can be mitigated by using the concealed form, interleaving the questions with random numbers of other questions (that may or may not be needed in the survey).

Guttman scaling is also known as cumulative scaling or scalogram analysis.

See also

Guttman, L. (1950). The basis for scalogram analysis. In Stouffer et al. Measurement and Prediction. The American Soldier Vol. IV. New York: Wiley

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