Specific Methods of Measuring Attitudes

If attitude measurement data are to be collected by self reporting methods, questionnaires must be developed for the purposes. But there are further problems involved in designing attitude measurement instruments and a number of specialized techniques have been developed for such measurement. Some of the more fundamental and widely used of these methods are discussed here.

Suppose a coffee company wants to know the attitude of consumers toward the color of coffee in the cup (preference for light, dark, or in between) and towards bitterness, aroma, and flavor. No standard yardstick exist for measuring these factors; researchers must create their own devices if the company wants to know how consumers ‘see’ coffee in their lives – is it important, does it play a major social role, is it harmful for children, is it a masculine drink, is it consumed primarily within the family or at more social occasions, do people like it or is it a habit, what product attributes are particularly important in selecting one brand of coffee over another, how ready to buy are individual consumers for particular kinds of coffee (percolator, drip, instant) or for particular brands?

The above points suggest some of the kinds of attitudes the marketer may want to measure. Methods of getting at them vary widely and will be discussed according to whether they are structured or non-structured and disguised or non-disguised.

Non-disguised, Non-structured Techniques:

The terms disguise and structure refer to whether the respondent knows the purpose of the interview and whether there is a formal structure or procedure for the questioning.

Depth Interviews: Depth interviews are the most commonly used techniques that make no attempt to disguise the subject of interest and uses no structural framework for eliciting information. To be effective depth interviews must be conducted by highly trained interviewers, often individuals with training in psychology. Such interviewers get respondents talking about the subject of interest – for example coffee and attempt it explore the respondents’ attitudes in depth by probing extensively into any areas that come up. Interviewers will have a general series if topics that they will introduce perhaps such topics as those suggested about coffee above and will introduce the from time to time if the respondent does not bring them up. But the tone of the interview is a one of permissiveness and the respondent is encouraged to talk as freely as possible.

Obviously, interviewers; skills are the key factor in depth interviewing. Interviewers must be imaginative and thorough in probing the leads provided by respondents, yet they must be careful not to let their questioning influence the answers. Interpretation of interview results is equally subjective. There is no basis for counting answers. Researchers must use their knowledge of human behavior to analyze the responses and to discover the attitudes they suggest. There are numerous opportunities for bias in the results. Depth interviews are also costly both in the data collection and the analysis stages. This leads to the use of small samples which can be another source of error.

Focus Group interviews: In principle, focus group interviewing is the same as depth interviewing except that groups are interviewed at one time. This tends to reduce the cost of obtaining information from a given number of respondents and has the added advantage of stimulation that each respondent receives from the others in the group. The disadvantages are the same as described for depth interviewing plus the added problem of possible group domination by one or a few individuals.

Focus groups have become a major tool of the market researchers, especially in exploratory research.

Conclusion: Non-disguised, non-structured interview techniques were widely used in the 1950s. Then for almost two decades, they declined in popularity; but they have now become popular again. The focus group interview particularly has been fond to provide leads to consumer thinking and attitudes that are difficult to obtain with other methods. For exploratory studies, non-disguised, non-structured methods are hard to replace.