Often, researchers in the social sciences would like to quantitatively describe or explain people's attitudes or beliefs about an issue. The problem is that attitudes or beliefs—such as “hope,” “customer satisfaction,” or “conservatism”—are qualitative and cannot be directly measured the way weight, height, or speed can be measured. This is the problem that Rensis Likert and others were up against in the early 20th century, and which Likert addressed in his article “A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes.”

Until 1932, the best procedures available for measuring attitudes were those developed by Louis Thurstone. In Thurstone's approach, as many as 200 experts, called judges, each rated a large number of statements for their favorableness toward a certain position or object. Through a process of elimination, 20 ...

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