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Measurement of Personal-Group Relations

Author(s): Emory S. Bogardus

Source: Sociometry, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Nov., 1947), pp. 306-311
Published by: American Sociological Association
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In social distance*studiesthe centerof attentionis on the feelingre-

actionsof personstowardotherpersonsand towardgroupsof people. In
this approach to interpersonal and personal-group relationsthe main em-
phasis throughout is on human reactionsas guided by the feelingaspects
of personality.
While thereare otherguides to human behaviorbesides the feelings,
yet the latterare primaryin the ontologicalgrowthof the child and more
compellingperhapsthan otherfactorsin personalbehavior. As considered
in social distancestudies,the feelingsare spontaneousexpressionsof the
autonomicnervoussystemto whateveris happeningto the humanorganism.
They are expressionsin part of the urge for security,and hence nothing
can be moreimportant in explainingthe role of humannaturein social life.
The feelingsbecome expanded in drivingpower in the formof the
emotions.They receivea relativelong life in and throughthe sentiments.
In social distancestudies no attemptis made to distinguishbetweenthe
different functional expressionsof personalityin its social interactions.
It is also contendedthat feelingreactionsare vital clues to human
attitudes.In fact,it may be arguedthat the feelingsreflectmorelighton
the natureof attitudesthan does anythingelse save actual behavior. But
since it is too late to predictbehaviorif one must wait until behaviorin
given human relationshipsactually occurs,then feelingreactionsto pro-
posed humanrelationships possessa possiblepredictive significance.Perhaps
theypossess morepredictiveimportance than do mostotheraspectsof per-
sonalityexceptingactual behaviorover a periodof time.
A primaryproblemin studyingfeelingreactionsis to capture these

*The social distance approach may be viewed as a form of sociometrics in which

attention is centered on the measurement of personal-group relations, on the measure-
ment of changes in these relations, on the use of stereotypes in such measurements, and
on attempts to utilize feeling reactions as a means of understanding human behavior.
The social distance approach may contribute to sociometrics in a number of ways. One
illustration may be given: By obtaining the reactions of persons in one geographic
area or in one cultural region toward people living in a different geographical area
or cultural region the social distance approach may have predictive value regarding
possible outbreaks of intergroup hostilities and of possible developments of intergroup
cooperation and assimilation.


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reactionsas freeas possiblefromotheraspectsof personality.To do this,

social distancestudiesrely upon promptnessor quicknessin fillingout in
the social distanceforms.This resultis furthered in two ways by asking
the subjectsto make only the simplestpossiblecheckmarks and by giving
the subjectsas littletimeas possibleto think. In fact,theyare requested
to thinkas littleas possible,and to indicatetheirfirstfeelingreactionin
each social situationthat is presentedto themsuch as, "Would you have
certainpersonsas close friends?"
The writerhas foundthat three-second intervalsis about as rapid as
the averagepersoncan read and checkhis reactionsto one social situation
afteranother,as given in the social distancescale.' In orderto assist in
controllingthe timefactor,the one who givesthe social distancetestsreads
aloud each social situation,checkshis responseand moves on to the next
situationat three-second intervals.In this way he sets the time-pacebut
asks beforehandthat personswith quick reactiontimeproceedfasterthan
he is doingand that thosewhose reactionis slowermay take a second of
extratimeforcheckingeach situation.
The personin chargeanswersquestionsbeforethe testbegins,but once
the test startsno interruptions are allowed. The more thoughtful persons
are certainlater to thinkof questions,to want to ponder,and mostlikely
of all to feelthat theyare inconsistent in theirmarkings.Some personsgo
so faras to say that "my firstfeelingreaction"is bad or unethicaland "I
wantto answertheway I thinkwilllook well." To offsetthesecontingencies
the personwho is conductingthe test, after answeringinitial questions,
states that further questionswill arise but that theyare to be ignored,for
they indicatethat too much thinkingis being done and that firstfeeling
actions are not beinggiven.
Feeling reactionsreveal "likes" and "dislikes" betterthan any other
approach. Social distance tests disclose these reactionsin theirsimplest,
crudest,and purestforms.They indicatehow a personwould expresshim-
self towardhis fellowsif he acted "withoutthinking,""just the way he
feels,"and withoutregardto politeness,social amenities,or his own status.
To enablea personto be as freeas possiblein expressing just how he feels
and nothingelse, the social distanceformstates at the top that no names
are to be given. He is told that since only checkmarks(or in some cases
a fewadditionalwordsto be printedby hand) are needed,as higha degree
of anonymity as is humanlypossibleis his. He can "let loose" and express
his innermost feelings.

"'Scales in Social Research," Sociology and Social Research, 24: 69-75.

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These feelings may be indicated according to a graduated scale of

feeling-degrees. In preparing the social distance scale a total of sixty-one
differentsocial relationshipswere typed on differentslips of paper and placed
in seven piles of increasing social farness (or of decreasing nearness) by 100
judges representinga variety of viewpoints and cultural backgrounds.2 The
arithmeticmean was obtained for each "social relationship," and beginning
with number one (the least farness) every tenth statement was chosen to
constitute a seven point evenly spaced distance scale. For scoring purposes
the first social relationship, namely, "would marry" was given a distance
score of one and the seventh relationship,"would debar from my country"
was given a score of seven. The numbers two to six represent the inter-
mediate degrees of farness.
The arithmeticmean of a person's reactions (in terms of from one to
seven) toward fortydifferentracial-cultural groups gives his personal-group
distance quotient. His quotient in this particular type of human relation-
ship thus can be compared with the similar quotient of every other person
in his particular social group. In this way it can be determinedin measure-
ment terms which members of a social group are most friendlytoward one
racial-culturalgroup after another, which members are most unfriendly,and
which occupy intermediatepositions.
There is a dynamic aspect of human nature that is indicated by this
procedure of measurement of distance relationships. The writer has given
the distance test to the same group of persons at time intervals of several
months and learned which persons have changed in their distance reactions,
which have become more distant than earlier, which less distant and how
much each has changed in given personal-groupsituations. By supplement-
ing this measurementtechnique with personal interviewsit has been possible
to learn about the experiences which each of several persons have had in
the interim between taking the measurementtests and thus to obtain some
degree of understanding of the factors that bring about changes in likes
and dislikes.3
By taking the arithmetic mean of the distance reactions of an entire
group of persons toward fortyracial-cultural groups it is possible to obtain
an intergroupquotient fromthe standpoint of the first-mentioned group. In
this way the differencesin the likes and dislikes of one social group can be

3"Social Distance and Its Implications," Sociology and Social Research, 22: 462-76.

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compared with those of another social group toward some larger racial-
cultural grouping and stated in measurement terms.
The social distance tests are developed to the point where the degree
of the likes and dislikes of a person in his economic relationships of life,
political relationships, religious relationships, as well as in the racial and
cultural can be learned. By taking the arithmetic mean of a person's re-
actions in these four differenttypes of human relationshipsa personal-social
relationship quotient can be obtained. This quotient can be secured from
time to time. It will show what changes in social attitudes a given person
is undergoing-in what direction and at what rate of change.
The measurementof feelingreactions is considered a way of measuring
attitudes. Many so-called attitude tests are not much more than personal
opinion tests. But the social distance test measures something more deep-
seated than a person's opinions-if not his attitudes then something very
similar to attitudes. If attitudes may be defined as established tendencies
to act toward or against something outside a person's own psychical nature,
then the social distance scale comes very close to being an attitude-
A pertinentquestion is: How reliable are the social distance measure-
ments of personal-group relationships? In his study of child-parent social
distance, E. W. Duvall found that the test was internallyconsistent.4 When
he developed an index of social distance based on answers of 458 children
and youth ranging in age from twelve to seventeen years to the question:
When you grow up would you choose to be like your fatheror mother? He
found that this index and the index based on the social distance scale as a
whole showed similar degrees of personal-group reactions.
In their experimentswith an informationtest and the social distance
test, Murphy and Likert found that the latter in comparison with the former
"yielded a mine of valuable information."' In their studies they modified
the social distance test to make it a measure of the degrees of tolerance
of differentpersons in natio-racial relationships. In discussing the results
they cite high validity of the test, and the high correlation of "the split
half reliabilityof the Bogardus test."5
In a more recent study of problems of prejudice on the part of indi-
viduals, Eugene Hartley slightly modified the social distance test and used
it extensivelywith students at Columbia, College of the City of New York,

4"Child-ParentSocial Distance," Sociology and Social Research, 21: 463.

5Public Opinion and the Individual, Harper & Brothers,1938, pp. 132-37.

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Princeton,Bennington,and Howard (Washington,D. C.). He compared

his resultswiththoseobtainedby the presentwriterten years earlierwith
a largernumberof and morewidelydistributedindividuals.The rankdif-
ferencecorrelationbetweenthe two resultsgives rho- .78, whichindicates
"a highlysignificantrelationship"and suggestsat least some degree of
reliabilityof the social distancetest.6 Othersidelightson the reliabilityof
the social distancetestaffordtestimony similarto thatalreadycited. While
the reliabilityof thistesthas not been fullyestablished,the pertinentdata
point definitely in that direction.
The inconsistency in the expressionin a person'slikes and dislikesis
repeatedlybroughtout in the measurement of person-group relationships.
This characteristic of the reactionsof person to group is shown in the
filled-outdistancescales. A personmay refuseto associatewitha particular
groupin farnessactivitiesbut acceptthe same personsin nearnessactivities.
He may not want such personsto be employedin his occupationbut accept
themas neighbors.7In manyinstancesthe personswho have filledout the
test reportafterwardthat theyhave been inconsistent and sometimesthey
blamethe test. The writerhas assuredthemthatinconsistency is a common
aspect of human nature and that if a filled-outformshowedno incon-
sistenciesits accuracy mightbe questioned. Althoughthe inconsistency
factorin personallikes and dislikesis common,its significance in the life
of the personpossessingit and to personsfeelingthe effectsof it has never
been adequatelystudied or measured. Related questionsfor investigation
are: How does inconsistency in likesand dislikesvaryfrompersonto person?
and, What factorsaccount for its functioning?The social distancetests
clearlydemonstrate in an objectiveway the operationof inconsistent per-
sonal reactions.
The frequentexpressionof an awarenessof personalinconsistency pos-
sesses ethicalelements.Personafterpersonapologizesforhis anonymously
filled-outdistancescale on the groundthat his feelingreactionsand conse-
quentcheckingof likesand dislikeswere"not theway I oughtto act toward
otherpersons." "I have higherstandards,but you asked me to give my
'firstfeelingreactions'." A major problemin administering social distance
testsis to keep the subjectsconfined to their "firstfeelingreactions."Some
personswant to rationalizeand to fill out the test accordingto the way
"I oughtto act."

'Eugene Hartley, Problems in Prejudice, King's Crown Press, 1946.

'Murphy and Likert, op. cit., p. 134.

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The social distance scale has weaknessesas a device for measuring

personal-group reactions.However,progressis being made in several con-
nections,forexample,in makingobjectivesome of the dynamicaspects of
personalityin measuringdegreesof likes and dislikes,in gettinga new
understanding of attitudes,in learningthe extentto which changes take
place in person-groupreactions,and in observinghow and when inconsist-
enciesin the expressionof likes and dislikesoccur.

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