Bogardus Social Distance Scale

The Bogardus Social Distance Scale was one of the first techniques for measuring attitudes toward racial and ethnic groups. The basic concept behind the Bogardus scale is that the more prejudiced an individual is against a particular group, the less that person will wish to interact with members of that group (R. M. Dawes, 1972). Thus, the items that compose a Bogardus scale describe relationships into which a respondent might be willing to enter with a member of the specified cultural group (e.g., spouse, friend, neighbor, coworker, citizen, visitor to our country, etc.). Items are worded in terms of either inclusion or exclusion. "Would you accept an X as a spouse?" is an example of an inclusion-type question. "Would you keep all Ys out of America?" is an example of an exclusion-type question. The attitude or esteem with which the respondent holds the specified group is defined as the closeness of relationship that the respondent reports as being willing to accept with a member of that group.

In E. S. Bogardus's (1928) early work, he found that White Americans maintained relatively small social distances from groups such as the British, Canadians, and northern Europeans, but greater social distances from southern Europeans. Groups that differed racially (e.g., Blacks and Orientals) were subject to even larger social distances. Extending the typical use of Bogardus scales, H. C. Triandis and L. M. Triandis (1960) used multifactor experimental designs to separate the independent effects of varying aspects of group membership (e.g., race, religion, and occupation). Triandis and Triandis (1962) later showed that various aspects of group membership of the respondents interact with the social distances they assign various other groups. Thus, Americans were found to consider race an important variable, whereas Greeks considered religion to be more critical. Personality factors such as dogmatism have also been shown to be related to one's proclivity to desire relatively large social distances from groups other than one's own.

The Bogardus scale is a type of Guttman scale. Thus, someone willing to accept members of a certain group as friends would also be willing to accept them as neighbors, coworkers, fellow citizens, and all other more distant rela tionships. While the responses of some individuals do occasionally reverse the rank-ordered nature of the items, average responses of groups (e.g., cultural or racial groups) tend to maintain the order in a well-constructed Bogardus scale (H. C. Triandis & L. M. Triandis, 1965). Hence, the Bogardus approach to attitude measurement is an effective means of estimating the esteem with which a group of individuals is held by other distinct groups of people.

Although the Bogardus approach to measuring attitudes between and among groups is primarily of historical importance, it continues to be used in recent years. It has generally been employed to assess attitudes in the sense of social distances among both ethnic and racial groups (e.g., Adler, 1985; Kleg & Yamamoto, 1998; Kunz & Yaw, 1989; Law & Lane, 1987), as has been the case historically, and among various psychologically defined groups (Maddux, Scheiber, & Bass, 1982) and groups representing those with various disabilities (Eisenman, 1986; Tolor & Geller, 1987).

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