The Measurement of Psychological Value

Insights from: L. L.Thurstone: "The Measurement of Psychological Value." In Thomas Vernor Smith and William Kelley Wright (eds), Essays in Philosophy by Seventeen Doctors of Philosophy of the University of Chicago. Chicago: Open Court (1929): 157-174. at Mead Project

"Some of the postulates underlying physical measurement are so obvious and so common that ordinarily they need not be stated. But when these same postulates are used for psychological measurement they need explicit formulation. One of these postulates is that a measurement describes only one attribute of the object. .... you cannot be completely described in a single measurement any more than a table can be completely described by merely counting the number of its legs. No matter what the object of measurement may be, the measurement describes only one attribute of the object." [Emphasis: Thurstone's] (p. 158)

"Another postulate that underlies all measurement is that the measured attribute is always uni-dimensional. ... If a series of landscape pictures is arranged by a group of judges in order of estimated excellence or artistic merit, it is tacitly assumed that it is possible to allocate all of the pictures to as many points in a single continuum of excellence, no matter how much the judges might object to so direct a statement of what they are doing." (p. 159)

"This leads to another fundamental consideration. It is possible to describe the attitude of an individual toward an object by allocating him to a point on the affective continuum. But it is also possible to describe the object by allocating it to the same point on the same continuum. Here we see that the measurement of the attitude of people toward an object or idea, and the measurement of the psychological value of the object are identical operations. If the measurement. is used as a description of a person or of a group of people, then it is a measurement of attitude. But if the same measurement is used as a description of the object or idea, then it is a measurement of the psychological value of the object. These two concepts, attitude and psychological value, as here defined, are quantitatively identical. They differ only in the purposes to which they are put. They are the two faces of the same thing." (p. 163)

"The criterion of internal consistency, the additive criterion, now demands that the distance between any two points on this line should agree with the experimental determination of the separation between these two points. This condition must be satisfied within the errors of measurement for all the possible pairs of stimuli in the series. No quantitative description of anything can be called a measurement except in so far as this additive criterion is satisfied. It is so obvious in physical measurement that it need rarely be stated. ...The uni-dimensionality of the scale values of the stimuli is demonstrated when this additive criterion is satisfied." (pp. 171, 174)


The Measurement of Psychological Value, Thurstone, L.L. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2006, 20:2 p. 1060

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