Guttman Scale

Guttman Scale definition:

A Guttman scale (also known as cumulative scaling or scalogram analysis) is an ordinal scale type where statements are arranged in a hierarchical order so that someone who agrees with one item will also agree with lower-order, easier, less extreme items. These statements should reflect an increasing intensity of attitude and form a continuum that is accepted by the respondents.  The point at which the respondent disagrees with a statement reflects the respondent’s scale position.

A Guttman scale presents a number of items to which the person is requested to agree or not agree. This is typically done in a 'Yes/No' dichotomous format. It is also possible to use a Likert scale, although this is less commonly used.

Guttman scales are very commonly used in political science, anthropology, public opinion, research, and psychology.

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Guttman scale advantages:

  • It can be used to answer many questions in a short amount of space and/or time.
  • It is intuitively appealing to most people.
  • It provides ranked data.
  • Reproducibility
  • More one-dimensional than Likert scaling

Guttman scale disadvantages:

  • The rank order of the statements may not be interpreted in the same way by the researcher, the subject or by independent judges.
  • Difficult to construct
  • Scalogram analysis may be too restrictive, only a narrow universe of content can be used
  • Cornell technique questionable
  • Results no better than summated Likert scales

Guttman scale examples

The ideal Guttman scale is such that if the respondent disagrees, for example, with statement 4 (having agreed with statements 1 to 3) then the respondent will disagree with statement 5 and higher as these represent more extreme expressions of the attitude being investigated.

For example, a series of items on attitude could be

  1. "I am willing to be near a cat"
  2. "I am willing to have a cat"
  3. "I love to have a cat"
  4. "I am willing to touch a cat"

Or a series of items on difficulty:

  1. counting from 1 to 50
  2. solving addition problems
  3. solving subtraction problems
  4. solving multiplication problems
  5. solving division problems

guttman scale