L.L. Thurstone and Controversy

Louis Leon Thurstone (in "L.L. Thurstone" 1952, pp.310-312):

"I wrote a paper entitled 'Attitudes can be measured.' Instead of gaining some approval for this effort, I found myself in a storm of criticism and controversy. The critics assumed that the essence of social attitudes was by definition something unmeasurable."

"There was heavy correspondence with people who were interested in attitude measurement, but they were concerned mostly with the selection of attitude scales on particular issues to be used on particular groups of people."

"There seemed to be very little interest in developing the theory of the subject. The construction of more and more attitude scales seemed to be unproductive, and I decided to stop any further work of this kind. Incomplete material for a dozen more attitude scales was thrown in the wastebasket and I discouraged any further work of that kind in my laboratory. I wanted to clear the place for work in developing multiple factor analysis."

"The excuse is often made that social phenomena are so complex that the relatively simple methods of the older sciences do not apply. This argument is probably false. The analytical study of social phenomena is probably not so difficult as is commonly believed. The principal difficulty is that the experts in social studies are frequently hostile to science. They try to describe the totality of a situation and their orientation is often to the market place or the election next week. They do not understand the thrill of discovering an invariance of some kind which never covers the totality of any situation. Social studies will not become science until students of social phenomena learn to appreciate this essential aspect of science."

Later, L.L. Thurstone (1959, " Introduction to Part III: Attitude measurement" p. 321) said that he had "tried to avoid controversy when it would have been better to ignore it."

I wonder why he did not seem to consider the value of engaging with controversy?

William P. Fisher, Jr.
William P. Fisher's Blog

"L.L. Thurstone." In Gardner Lindzey (ed.) A History of Psychology in Autobiography Vol. 4. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall (1952): 294 - 321.



L.L. Thurstone and Controversy, W.P. Fisher, Jr. ... Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2011, 24:4, 1313


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