A Brief History of Mental Measures
The history of the social sciences is very much dependent on the scientific community’s understanding of measurement. Darwin’s (1859/2003) publication of The Origin of Species drew attention to the notion of genetic variation, or the notion that nature selects certain traits and attributes to be passed from one generation to the next while others are not. Darwin’s work on genetic variation spurred the drive to scientifically measure individual differences. Darwin’s half cousin Francis Galton (1869) was the first scientist to tackle this task, which culminated in the publication of his book Hereditary Genius. In Hereditary Genius, Galton applied Darwin’s ideas to humans by demonstrating “that a [human’s] natural abilities are derived by inheritance, under exactly the same limitations as are the form and physical features of the whole organic world” (p.1). Galton realized that he needed to develop a way to assess an individual’s genius, so he decided to examine an individual’s fame in his career and see how his children fared in their careers. This crude attempt at measuring a non-physical attribute is the first time an individual attempted to measure something social scientifically. Ultimately, Galton demonstrated that individuals who were famous in their careers had children who were also famous in their careers. Hereditary Genius created the field of quantitative differential psychology, or the study of how individuals or groups differ. While Galton was primarily interested in measuring genetic differences among people, American psychologist James McKeen Cattell (1890) traveled to England to learn how Galton used statistics to understand humans. In 1890, Cattell was the first social scientist to develop measurements for non- physical attributes. Cattell’s justification for his project was very simple, “Psychology cannot attain the certainty and exactness of the physical sciences, unless it rests on a foundation of experiment and measurement” (p. 373). Cattell realized that the social sciences had come to a crossroad. One road to be taken would eventually lead to the development of the humanities as we know it today, but the second road would eventually lead to the scientific exploration of human behavior. To take this step in a measurement oriented direction, Cattell recommended the following:
A step in this direction could be made by applying a series of mental tests and measurements to a large number of individuals. The results would be of considerable scientific value in discovering the constancy of mental processes, their interdependence, and their variation under different circumstances. Individuals, besides, would find their tests interesting, and, perhaps, useful in regard to training, mode of life or indication of disease. (p. 373)
Cattell initiated his process of developing mental tests and measures by first looking at ten specific variables: dynamometer pressure, rate of movement, sensation-areas, pressure causing pain, least noticeable difference in weight, reaction-time for sound, time for naming colors, bi-section of a 50 centimeter line, judgment of 10 seconds time, and number of letters remembered on once hearing. While these variables may seem slightly rudimentary to today’s laundry list of social-scientific variables, these ten variables would eventually create a firestorm of research among psychologists, sociologists, and eventually communication researchers.
During his tenure at the University of Pennsylvania, Cattell began to administer newly developed measures to students, which he ultimately labeled “mental tests” or “mental measures.” The term “mental measures” is used today to refer to any “tool used for the measurement of mental functions like attitudes, beliefs, cognitive knowledge, perceived knowledge, personality/behavioral traits, and psychological functioning” (Wrench, Thomas-Maddox, Richmond, & McCroskey, 2008, p. 171). Basically, any achievement test, personality test, aptitude test, intelligence test, or career choice test qualifies as a mental measure (Salkind, 2006). By the time the 20th century rolls around, mental measurement began picking up steam both in the United States and around the world.
In 1905, Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, was commissioned to create the first test to determine if children were functioning at lower than normal levels. Binet, along with his doctoral student Theodore Simon, created the Binet-Simon Scale, which measured a child’s adeptness at completing various age appropriate tasks (Binet, 1905). The Binet-Simon Scale became the first known intelligence test of its kind. Binet’s research was then furthered by Stanford University professor Lewis Terman (1916) who examined intelligence as a function that could be measured for both children and adults. During World War I, the American Psychological Association along with Lewis Terman volunteered to create verbal (for literate recruits) and nonverbal (for illiterate recruits) tests of intelligence for the U.S. army. The tests became known as Army Alpha (verbal) and Army Beta (nonverbal). In the next two decades, intelligence testing became academic achievement testing, which culminated in the 1937 creation of the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) that was required for entry into Ivy League schools. By 1947 so many people were taking educational tests, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) was created to oversee the production, psychometrics, and distribution of educational tests, which still oversees numerous tests today (e.g., GRE, PRAXIS, SAT, CLEP, AP, TOEFL, and many others).
While educational tests and basic psychological functioning tests were very dominant during the 1890s and first decade of the 1900s, personality testing really did not occur until the end of World War I. While the Army Alpha (verbal) and Army Beta (nonverbal) intelligence tests were useful, the army additionally wanted a mental measure that could determine the psychological state of new recruits beyond their intelligence. To aid in the creation of such a measure, Robert Woodworth (1920) was commissioned by the American Psychological Association, on behalf of the U.S. military, to create a measure of emotional stability that could be used to test new recruits. Woodworth ultimately created the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet, which contained a series of 116 “yes” “no” questions. Unfortunately, the test was developed too late in WWI to be used in the screening of new recruits, but the test did become the forerunner of future personality tests (Segal & Coolidge, 2003). Eventually, the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet would become the first mental measure to measure a personality variable on large numbers of participants under its new name, the Woodworth Psychoneurotic Questionnaire.
In 1918, William Isaac Thomas and Florian Znaniecki defined social psychology as “the study of attitudes.” Along with the development of attitudinal research, Jowett and O’Donnell (1992) note:
"Other social sciences such as sociology and psychology were also stimulated by the need to pursue questions about human survival in an age in which social strain grew heavy with concerns about warfare, genocide, economic depression, and human relationships. These questions were about influence, leadership, decision making, and changes in people, institutions, and nations. Such questions were also related to the phenomena of propaganda, public opinion, attitude change, and communication. (p. 123)
The study of attitudes ultimately opened up a series of new mental measure formats that became popular over the rest of the 20th century. While psychologists and sociologists have relied on a wide range of differing mental measure formats, communication scholars have relied primarily on two formats: Likert Scales and Semantic-Differential Scales.
Rensis Likert (1932) published an article based on his dissertation in which he developed a new attitude-scaling technique for measuring people’s attitudes. The basic premise of the Likert scale was quite simplistic, but ultimately revolutionized social scientific research. Likert started off with the idea of presenting respondents a declarative statement of some kind (e.g., “The president is doing a good job”); then offering the respondents a range of possible choices (strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree or disagree, agree, or strongly agree); and finally requiring that the respondent select one and only one choice. The range of choices have weighted distances, so the answer on a single Likert item is considered ordinal because researchers cannot assume that respondents perceive the difference between the different levels evenly. However, when multiple Likert items measure a single construct and are summed together, the summed total may be treated as interval data that actually measures a latent construct.
The next truly major breakthrough in the area of attitudinal measurement came from Osgood (1952) and Osgood, Tannnenbaum, and Suci (1957). Stanger and Osgood (1946) were examining people’s social stereotypes. To examine the social stereotypes associated with particular concepts like “pacifist, Russian, dictator, and neutrality,” Stanger and Osgood presented a series of oppositely worded adjectives to their respondents with a 7-step scale in between the two adjectives. Previous research by Karwoski, Odbert, and Osgood (1942) had presented respondents with a set of oppositely worded adjectives and asked the respondents to just pick one of the adjectives. Stanger and Osgood, however, realized that it was more useful if a continuum existed between the two adjectives to show gradients of meaning. Ultimately, Stanger and Osgood’s scale became known as a Semantic Differential Scale.
A semantic differential scale asks respondents to rate their opinion on a linear scale between two endpoints that have opposite meanings (e.g., Good/Bad, Dirty/Clean, Slow/Fast, Weak/Strong, Light/Heavy, Moral/Immoral, etc.). Between these two oppositely worded adjectives, there exists a series of steps. The most common number of steps in a semantic-differential scale is seven, so instructions for a semantic differential test read like this “Circle the number between the adjectives which best represents your beliefs. Numbers ‘1’ and ‘7’ indicate a very strong feeling. Numbers ‘2’ and ‘6’ indicate a strong feeling. Numbers ‘3’ and ‘5’ indicate a fairly weak feeling. Number ‘4’ indicates you are undecided or do not understand the adjectives themselves.” Whether or not we, as the researchers, actually have the physical numbers present in a semantic differential really isn’t important as long as we know that we have direct quantifiable distances between each step. Since these steps are weighted distances, the answer on a single Semantic-Differential item is considered ordinal because researchers cannot assume that
respondents perceive the difference between the steps evenly. However, if multiple semantic differential items measuring a single construct are summed together, the summed total may be treated as interval data that actually measures a latent construct.
Mental Measurement Today
Today there are literally hundreds of thousands of mental tests and measures that exist. There are also two online databases that can be useful when searching for mental measures: Mental Measures Yearbook and Educational Testing Service. By 1938, there were so many new mental-measures being developed that Oscar K. Buros decided to publish the first volume of the Mental Measures Yearbook. The Mental Measures Yearbook attempts to locate and provide descriptions of the measure, one or two reviews of the measure, and references for how to find the measure. The Buros Center for Testing (http://www.unl.edu/buros/) is still an active research center for mental measures, and the 17th volume of the Mental Measures Yearbook came out in 2007 (Gesinger, Spies, Carlson, & Plake).
The Educational Testing Service (http://www.ets.org/) also has started compiling mental measures. If you are on the ETS’s website, click on the link that says “Find a Test.” You will be taken to the Test Directory homepage. You will need to scroll down until you find the link to “Test Link,” which is a database of over 25,000 mental measures. In fact, in a simple name search there are over 160 mental measures with the word “communication” in the title alone. On the ETS website, you can also order many tests for $25 a pop, but often the location of the physical test or contact information for the test’s creator is also available.
Beyond just websites there is the Mental Measures Yearbook (Gesinger, Spies, Carlson, & Plake, 2007) and the Directory of Unpublished Experimental Mental Measures published by the American Psychological Association (Goldman & Mitchell, 2007). While both of these publications contain mental measures related to communication, as of yet there is not a directory of mental measures specifically for communication related measures. The current project hopes to fill this void. A directory of mental measures is not a list or critiques of the measures themselves. If you are looking for critiques of communication measures, we would recommend Rubin, Palmgreen, and Sypher (2004), which was originally published in 1991. Instead, this Directory of Communication Related Mental Measures is a list of current measures in existence within the field. To create this directory, the following journals have been consulted:
Academy of Management Journal
Argumentation and Advocacy
American Journal of Public Health
Annals of Sex Research
Asian Journal of Communication
Australian Journal of Communication
Canadian Journal of Communication
Central States Speech Journal
Communication and Cognition
Communication Law and Policy
Communication Methods and Measures
Communication Research Reports
Educational and Psychological Measurement
Environmental Psychology and Nonverbal Behavior
European Journal of Communication
Group & Organization Studies
Howard Journal of Communication Human Communication
Human Communication Research International
Journal of Listening
Journal of Applied Communication Research
Journal of Applied Psychology
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Journal of Asian Pacific Communication
Journal of Business Communication
Journal of Business and Technical Communication
Journal of Communication
Journal of Communication and Religion
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Journal of Family Communication
Journal of Genetic Psychology
Journal of Health Communication
Journal of Intercultural Communication Research
Journal of International Communication
Journal of Language and Social Psychology
Journal of Management Development
Journal of Marketing Research
Journal of Marriage and the Family
Journal of Media and Religion
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior
Journal of Personality Assessment
Journal of Research in Personality
Journal of Retailing
Journal of Sex Research
Journalism & Mass Communications Quarterly
Management Communication Quarterly
Public Opinion Quarterly
Sign Language Studies
Speech Monographs (see also Communication Monographs)
Southern Communication Journal
The Speech Teacher (see also Communication Education)
Western Journal of Communication
If in the process of our search for communication related mental measures we found a measure outside one of these journals, we examined the original article and have included the mental measure’s citation within this directory. In a couple of cases, highly utilized scales within the field of communication were not originally published within a journal (i.e., Personal Report of Communication Apprehension-24), but has been utilized in numerous research studies, so we felt it was necessary to include the original citation and any relevant citations within journals as well.
The directory is broken down in a variety of categories designed to be similar to the interest group structure in existent with the National Communication Association:
Communication Traits and States
Using the Directory
The placement of a specific mental measure was not always as clear as it should be, so we apologize up front for our classification of different measures. For example, Wrench and Richmond’s (2004) Humor Assessment Inventory was originally published in a format for instructional purposes, so the mental measure could be classified as an instructional context measure. However, the measure has been utilized primarily to examine the use of humor during communicative interactions (Wrench & McCroskey, 2001), so the measure was listed as an interaction trait measure. If you are looking for a specific measure, we recommend looking in the index. While we scoured the physical copies of literally thousands of volumes of academic journals looking for mental measures, we are sure that some mental measures have been missed. Accept our apologies for this oversight and please let us know so we can include missed measures in future editions of this directory (email@example.com).
For a mental measure to be included within this directory, the measure had to be available in full- text within a peer-reviewed academic journal. We did not include professionally published mental measures because these generally require payment to the publisher or author for use in academic research, which is a practice the authors of this book find reprehensible. To aid you in your search for useful mental measures, we have provided the following information for each mental measure in the directory if presented in the original article: test name, purpose, number of items, format, original sample, Reliability:, validity, brief critique, source, related research, and categories. We have chosen this format for a few reasons. First, this format resembles the format used by the American Psychological Association in the publication of its Directory of Unpublished Experimental Mental Measures. By following the same format as the APA, we hope to encourage people who are familiar with their publication to use this publication as well. Second, the information provided gives you the basic information about the psychometric properties of the mental measure. Lastly, the information provided is the basic information a researcher needs to find the full-text of the mental measure and pertinent related research. Once you have found a mental measure you think will be beneficial to your research, simply pull the original article cited and you will find the full-text version of the measure. We have opted not to include full-text measures within this directory because of the expense that doing so would cause. Now that we have explained the basic reasoning behind the format of this directory, we can look at the different sections of an individual mental measure’s citation.
The name of the mental measure that is listed in the directory is the one given to the mental measure by the author of the original source. Therefore, it is possible that numerous sources will have very similar names if not the same name. If a mental measure was not named by the original author, the authors of this directory have provided a name.
Each mental measure is provided a concise statement explaining what the measure purports to measure. These statements are either taken directly from the author’s own words or are determined by the authors of this directory based on the scale items themselves. When necessary, further information is provided about the measure if it has been used in a variety of different contexts. Number of items
Each citation contains the number of items used by the mental measure. If a measure contains multiple factors, the citation includes the number of items used to measure each factor.
Each citation explains what kind of format is used by the mental measure (Likert Scale, Semantic- Differential, Thurstone, Scalogram, etc…). If a mental measure includes more than one format, both formats are discussed. If the measure contains a format that lies outside of traditional measurement, more detail is provided as necessary.
The original sample for each scale is discussed. Aspects of the sample that are included (if in the articles) are age, biological sex, ethnicity, and origin of the sample.
When reported by the measure’s author, the mental measure’s alpha Reliability, split-half Reliability, or test-retest reliability is given. If a mental measure’s reliability is not discussed, the authors of the directory note that “no reliability coefficients were provided in the article.”
When reported by the measure’s author, the mental measure’s validity will be discussed. Specifically, we address issues of a measure’s construct or factorial/context validity and a measure’s criterion validity (predictive, concurrent, & retrospective). If validity is not expressly discussed in an article, we will provide noted relationships between the newly created mental measure and other mental measures within the study. If there are no clear relationships as a possible indication of concurrent validity, the authors will note that “validity was not specifically discussed in this article.”
The critiques provided are as objective as humanly possible. As the authors of the Directory of Communication Related Mental Measures, we did not think it was our place to discuss the actual utility of various measures beyond psychometric related issues. There are many mental measures that are included in this volume that we think are seriously flawed. However, we kept our personal opinions out of our
critiques. Some of the measures were also created for highly specific purposes, so we try to offer suggestions for how various measures could be utilized in other research projects when possible.
The source is the original citation for the full-text version of the mental measure. In the case where a mental measure was originally found in a published book or unpublished paper and then utilized in research within an academic journal, both the book or conference paper and the journal citations are listed. However, books and unpublished papers are listed as related research.
Most mental measures do not exist in a vacuum, so we will provide related research when possible. This research could either relate to previous studies that informed the development of the mental measure, or studies that have utilized the mental measure. However, we limited reporting of related research to specific source materials necessary for research purposes, so do not expect an exhaustive list of research utilizing a specific measure.
Since numerous communication related mental measures do not fall into one specific category, we have listed all applicable categories. For example, the Personal Report of Interethnic Communication Apprehension (PRECA) is listed as both “communication apprehension & avoidance” and “intercultural communication” since the scale can be used by scholars examining both areas. However, the PRECA is cited in the Communication Apprehension & Avoidance chapter, but also lists intercultural communication as a secondary category.
We hope this Directory of Communication Related Mental Measures will be a useful tool for your research endeavors. Within this first volume, we have profiled over 500 mental measures that have been published within communication journals. Over one-thousand hours have gone into searching for mental measures, describing the mental measures, and categorizing the mental measures. However, we may have made mistakes along the way. If you find a mistake in this directory, please contact the lead author so we can correct these mistakes in future editions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This book is dedicated to the thousands of past, current, and future members of NCA’s undergraduate communication organizations: Lambda Pi Eta, National Communication Association Student Club, and Sigma Chi Eta.
We want to thank Gust Yep and the anonymous reviewers for their insight into this book. The reviews we received were both encouraging and thought provoking, and the volume would not be as complete as it is without those reviews.
We also want to thank our colleagues at our home institutions for working with us during the development of this project. Whether it was loaning us hard to find journals or reading early drafts of the manuscript, we thank you for cooperation and encouragement.
Lastly, we want to thank two people who helped us with this project: David Savercool and Shannon Brogan. David Savercool, Jason Wrench’s undergraduate research assistant, spent countless hours scouring through communication journals looking for mental measures. Dr. Shannon Brogan was an instrumental sounding board during the early phases of this project.
Jason S. Wrench, SUNY New Paltz Doreen Jowi, Bloomsburg University Alan K. Goodboy, Bloomsburg University
Binett, A. (1905). New methods for the diagnosis of the intellectual level of subnormals. L’Année Psychologique, 12, 191-244.
Buros, O. K. (Ed.). (1938). The 1938 mental measurements yearbook. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press.
Cattell, J. M. (1890). Mental tests and measurements. Mind, 15, 373-381.
Darwin, C. (2003/1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.
Galton, F. (1869). Heredity genius: An inquiry into its laws and consequences. New York: Macmillan.
Gesinger, G. F., Spies, R. A., Carlson, J. F., & Plake, B. S. (Eds.). (2007). The seventeenth mental measurements yearbook. Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press.
Goldman, B. A., & Mitchell, D. F. (2007). Directory of unpublished experimental mental measures (vol. 8). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (see also Volumes 1-7)
Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (1992). Propaganda and Persuasion (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Karwoski, T. F., Odbert, H. S., & Osgood, C. E. (1942). Studies in synesthetic thinking II: The roles of form in visual responses to music. Journal of General Psychology, 26, 199-222.
Likert, R. (1932). A technique for the measurement of attitudes. Archives of Psychology, 140, 1-55.
Osgood, C. E. (1952). The nature and measurement of meaning. Psychological Bulletin, 49, 197-237.
Osgood, C. E., Tannenbaum, P. H., & Suci, G. J. (1957). The measurement of meaning. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Rubin, R. B., Palmgreen, P., & Sypher, H. E. (Eds.). (2004). Communication research measures: A sourcebook. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Salkind, N. J. (2006). Tests & measurement for people who (think they) hate tests & measurement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Segal, D. L., & Coolidge, F. L. (2003). Objective assessment of personality and psychopathology: An overview. In M. J. Hilsenroth, D. L. Segal, & M. Hersen (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychological assessment: Volume 2: Personality assessment (pp. 3-13). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Stagner, R., & Osgood, C. E. (1946). Impact of war on a nationalistic frame of reference: Changes in general approval and qualitative patterning of certain stereotypes. Journal of Social Psychology, 24, 187-215.
Terman, L. M. (1916). The measurement of intelligence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Thomas, W. I., & Znaniecki, F. (1918). The Polish peasant in Europe and America: Primary-group organization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Woodworth, R. S. (1920). Personal Data Sheet. Chicago: Stoelting.
Wrench, J. S., & McCroskey, J. C. (2003). A communibiological explanation of ethnocentrism and homophobia. Communication Research Reports, 20, 24-33.
Wrench, J. S., & Richmond, V. P. (2004). Understanding the psychometric properties of the Humor Assessment instrument through an analysis of the relationships between teacher humor assessment and instructional communication variables in the college classroom. Communication Research Reports, 21, 92-103.
Wrench, J. S., Thomas-Maddox, C., Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, J. C. (2008). Quantitative research methods for communication: A hands-on approach. New York: Oxford University Press.