Cumulative Scale: Definition, Example

In a cumulative scale, a respondent is given a number of questions to express his or her agreement or disagreement on an issue.

The items are arranged in such a way that a respondent who responds favorably to item 2 also replies favorably to item 1, and one who replies favorably to item 3 also replies favorably to items 1 and 2, and so on. In other words, it assumes a cumulative set of scores.

Therefore, the individuals who answer favorably have a higher total score than those who answer unfavorably. The score of an individual is computed by counting the number of items he answers favorably.

His scores indicate a particular position on the scale. The intervals between the positions may not be equal.

The items may be arranged front favorableness to unfavorableness in a systematic manner or may be randomly selected.

The cumulative type of scale was successfully used by Bogardus first, for which it is also known as Bogardus’s social distance scale.

The main purpose of this scab is to measure the attitude towards a particular ethnic group or groups.

A number of suggested relationships may be listed, to which members of an ethnic group (for example) may be accepted. The respondent is to indicate as to which racial group is to be accepted by him for each of the specified relationships.

The attitude is measured by the closeness of the relationship that a respondent is willing to accept or the social distance that he likes to maintain.

A Bogardus-type scale is illustrated by an example below:

cumulative scale example

The respondent is to circle each of the seven categories to which he is willing to accept a particular group. The respondent’s first reactions can be known by this.

For a group, if a respondent circles ‘3’, he is very likely to circle ‘4’ and ‘5’ for the same group. If the respondent does not circle ‘3’,

he will probably not circle ‘1’ and ‘2’, for these indicate an even closer relationship for the same group. The seven categories indicate gradually increasing social distance.

The score for the respondent will be the number of items he has circled. From this score, it is possible to ascertain which of the items the respondent has chosen.

In the Bogardus-type scale, the respondent has to indicate his first feeling. He has to give his reaction to each race as a group, not an individual member of the group.

The scale distance can also be calculated mathematically. In order to do this, weights are attached to different categories of relationships.

Thus, if there are only 5 categories, the weights such as 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 can be assigned to the first 5 categories, respectively.

The following procedure is generally adopted for the measurement of social distance:

  • Place the weights and percentage response for each category in rows.
  • Multiply the percentage response by its weight
  • Add up the product, and this will be the required social distance.

One problem that has been raised with this form of scale is that there is no way to determine the actual distance between the various points on the scale, and some points seem to be at a greater distance from the point next to them than others further away.

The scores, however, are treated as equidistant. Nevertheless, such a scale – and there are many versions – may be useful if we are studying attitudes toward groups of “others.”

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