Concepts in Attitude Tests With Special Reference to Social Questions

Daniel H. Kulp, II
Teachers College, Columbia University

Introduction. The chaos in the field of attitude testing is all too apparent. It is, therefore, a most important problem at present to define and standardize the use of such terms as attitude, opinion, belief, judgment, and fact. When examining the content of the tests in the field, one is amazed at the conglomeration of items. There are items asking for simple information, for judgments, for beliefs, and yet they are supposed to be measuring attitudes. But are they? The words—attitude, opinion, judgment, belief—are used interchangeably, although there are many writers who recognize the distinction but offer no clear-cut way out.[1]

Purpose of Study. It is the object of this paper, there-fore, (1) to note briefly the literature on this problem; (2) to examine briefly the tests in the field of inter-national, interracial, political, economic, social, and religious problems; (3) to present definitions and examples of attitudes, opinions, judgments, beliefs, and facts; and (4) to bring to bear experimental evidence in order to show more clearly the confusion existing and to serve as supplementary proof for the concepts and their definitions presented herein.

Types of Tests. Several of the published tests in the field of social attitudes were examined and critically surveyed in view of the definitions suggested for attitude, opinion, belief, judgment, and fact as outlined in the next

( 219) part of this paper. A number of questionnaires appearing in journal articles also were examined. According to the concept and definition of attitude presented later in this paper, none of these tests or questionnaires examined truly measures attitudes. Most of the items contained in them are of the belief and judgment types.

Definitions and Examples. It is appropriate at this point to present definitions for these terms as used in this investigation and to give examples of each in the form of possible items appearing in attitude tests. Some of the definitions may suggest old concepts but it is our purpose here not necessarily to offer something new but to relieve us as much as possible from some of the existing confusion.


1.An attitude is a behavior tendency with reference to a value. It may be expressed in verbal symbols or through nonverbal overt behavior. 

2.judgment is a decision of an intellectual order, a cognitive experience concerning the qualitative aspects of one's environment, based upon personal knowledge. 

3.A belief is a verbal expression of one's highly personalized affective behaviors with reference to environmental qualities. There is more of an emotional than an intellectual content. It takes form with reference to idealistic norms. 

4.An opinion is a rationalization for a given act, attitude, belief, or judgment. It is a reason which satisfies the person expressing it for self-justification. Its major character is intellectual. It cannot stand by itself but must be attached to an attitude, belief, or judgment. 

5.A fact statement is a record of data based upon actual and verifiable information. 


1. Attitudes

a. I favor the United States joining the League of Nations.

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b. I promote the recognition of Soviet Russia by the United States.

2. Judgments

a. The United States is justified in not joining the League of Nations.

b. It is necessary that the United States recognize Soviet Russia.

3. Beliefs

a. The United States should decide to join the League of Nations.

b. The United States should recognize Soviet Russia.

4. Opinions[2]

a. I favor the United States joining the League of Nations because it has already rendered great service to humanity.

b. It is necessary that we recognize Soviet Russia since it is possible for the United-States to develop a huge trade with her.

5. Facts

a. The United States has refused to join the League of Nations.

b. The United States has recognized Soviet Russia.

The following is the complete list of items in the "attitude" form of statement.

1. I promote the recognition of Soviet Russia by my government.

2. I protest against allowing Communists openly to advocate their policies here in the United States.

3. I advocate that the great nations in the world have a part in determining the foreign policies of small and weak nations.

4. I support our national exclusion of the Japanese and Chinese of the immigrant labor type from the United States.

5. I support the United States government in keeping the Philippine Islands.

6. I favor always being adequately prepared for war.

7. I desire that immigration be cut off almost entirely.

8. I have nothing but contempt for the church.

9. I despise the church as a parasite on society.

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10. I do not patronize a hotel that accommodates Negroes.

11. I favor the United States joining the League of Nations.

12. I aid whenever possible in directing our educational forces toward the development of socialism.

13. I advocate legalizing the distribution of birth control information.

14. I accept the proposition that birth control is the only solution to many of our social problems.

15. I advocate an organization of all nations.

16. I disapprove of nations intervening with military force in purely commercial or financial disputes.

17. I favor immediate disarmament of all nations.

18. I favor the control of our government by great financial interests.

19. I support government ownership of the railroads in the United States.

20. I aid colored people in their fight for social equality.

21. I defend a federal law against lynching.

22. I oppose requiring white men to work with Negroes.

23. I urge teachers to give students of suitable age a firm understanding and belief in the protective tariff policy.

24. I favor the cultivation of international friendship and good will by governments.

25. I sacrifice all national, cultural, and historical traditions.

Experimental Procedure. Twenty-five items were selected at random from several of these attitude tests and were converted into the attitude form, as given in the fore-going statements, the judgment form, the belief form, and the fact form according to the examples presented herewith —thus making a total of one hundred items.[3] These one hundred items were shuffled and mimeographed according to the resulting chance order. This list was sent to fifty

( 222) sociologists, members of the American Sociological Society, with instructions to classify each item according to whether they thought it was best considered as attitude (A) or judgment (J) or belief (B) or fact (F). They were not given any definitions for purposes of comparing agreement with those offered above. Twenty-eight usable questionnaires were returned.

Treatment of Data. The responses to each of the one hundred items were tabulated for the twenty-eight questionnaires. The number answering each item as A or J or B or F was obtained and the percentages for each were calculated.

It was noticed from the many comments received that A items were often thought to be F items. Since all the attitude items started with "I" and contained an active verb, the person answering the questionnaire felt that he was being asked to consider these as facts. Such being the case, the number and percentage marking the twenty-five attitude items, as fact items, were also calculated.

Results. The twenty-five items which appeared in the original tests were classifiable by our definitions into the four types as follows: sixteen belief items, five judgment items, three fact items, and one attitude item. The percentage answering the sixteen belief items as B ranged from 14 to 46; the percentage answering the sixteen items as B or J ranged from 39 to 86. The percentage answering the five judgment items as J ranged from 15 to 43 ; while the percentage answering the five judgment items as J or B ranged from 48 to 89. The percentage answering the three fact items as F ranged from 11 to 39. The low percentage answering these items as F can be easily explained since these three items may not be truly fact[4] ]items

( 223) because of the paucity of information in regard to them. Most of the other F items received a very high percentage agreement, as will be noted. The percentage answering the one attitude item as A is 71. This becomes 82% when those answering this item as F are included.

An analysis of the remaining data reveal these results. Of the one hundred items, forty-one were marked according to our key by 50% or more of those answering the questionnaire. Of these forty-one items, nineteen were attitude items, fifteen were fact items, five were judgment items, and two were belief items. If the A items that were marked F are included in the above calculations because of the reason already given, the results are as follows : forty-seven items were marked according to the key by 50% or more of those answering the questionnaire. Of these forty-seven items, twenty-five were attitude items, fifteen were fact items, five were judgment items, and two were belief items. On this latter basis there were twenty-seven items on which there was an agreement of from 85% to 100%. All of these were F items and A items marked as either A or F.

The percentage answering the twenty-five A items as A ranged from 20 to 79; the percentage answering the twenty-five F items as F ranged from 11 to 100. On nineteen of the A items, the percentage answering them as A was 5( or more; on fifteen of the F items, the percentage answering them as F was 50 or more. But on nine of the F items the percentage answering them as F was more than 80—on seven, the percentage was more than 85. The percentage answering the twenty-five B items as B ranged from 14 to 58. On only two of the B items, the percentage answering them as B was 50 or more. The percentage answering the twenty-five J items as J ranged from 11 to 61.

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On five of the J items, the percentage answering them as J was more than 50. This is shown in the following table.

Table I
Type of Item No. of items on which there was 50
or more percent agreement
No of items on which there was 80
or more percent agreement
No of items on which there was 85
or more per cent  agreement
A 19 0 0
F 15 9 7
B 2 0 0
J 5 0 0

Conclusions. 1. The greatest agreement with the key occurs in the following rank order: first, fact items ; second, attitude items ; third, judgment items ; and fourth, belief items.

2. Attitude items expressed in the form as defined here-in can be most readily recognized; this fact supports the use of straightforward phrasing in attitude test construction.

3. Facts are readily recognized but should not by any evidence yet available be indiscriminately used in test making. To agree or disagree is a matter of judgment of "factness," not of attitude. A check, one way or the other, for such an item leaves us in the dark as to the person's attitude.

4. Due to the uncertainty in distinguishing judgments from beliefs, we cannot be sure how to interpret them per se, or in relation to attitudes. They should be omitted from attitude tests except as they may be needed as "blinds" or "dummies."

5. The-changes in results of tests due to adding opinion forms to attitude forms or belief forms or judgment forms have yet to be investigated.


  1. R. Likert, "A Technique for the Measurement of Attitudes," Archives of Psychology, No. 140, 1932, pp. 12-13.
  2. In 5-a, the opinion is attached to an attitude; in 4-b, it is attached to a judgment.
  3. When the original item contained an opinion, as defined in this paper, the opinion part was dropped for the sake of simplicity. To include the opinion part would not have contributed at all to the problem at hand, i.e., the differentiation among attitudes, beliefs, judgments, and facts. It remains for another re-search to attempt to determine whether responses to an item without an opinion will be the same as responses to the same item containing an opinion or a rationalization for so believing or judging or behaving. It is the author's hypothesis that the responses would vary because of the rationalizations, which can take many different forms.
  4. One of the fact items read: Our government is controlled by great financial interests. This may or may not be considered a fact.

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