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The Perception of Attitude Relationships: A Multidimensional Scaling Approach to the Structuring of Social Attitudes

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Attitude Measures, Color, Multidimensional Scaling, Psychophysics, Social Attitudes


The primary purpose of this study was to see whether a set of perceived attitude relationships could be adequately represented by a dimensional model. The particular attitude area selected for this purpose was composed of attitudes toward war, capital punishment, and the treatment of criminals. A multidimensional method of successive intervals based upon the Euclidean model of multidimensional psychophysics was developed. If this model satisfactorily accounted for perceived relationships among statements of the three attitudes, it would also be possible to discover the number and the nature of the relevant dimensions involved. A secondary purpose of the experiment was to investigate judgments made by two diverse groups in order to discover whether they perceive attitudes as being structured in different ways. The multidimensional attitude structures perceived by two diverse groups were essentially identical, the relationships among statements of the three attitudes being adequately represented in terms of two oblique dimensions, a war dimension and a punishment dimension. Apparently individuals do perceive attitudes, at least in this particular attitude area, in terms of a definite structure, and when called upon to make judgments concerning attitude relationships, they respond in terms of this dimensional frame of reference.

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