Objective Measurement of Subjective Phenomena

2. Introduction

Assigning numbers to individuals to represent the magnitude or presence vs. absence of an attribute or characteristic (Allen & Yen, 1979; McDonald, 1999).

When we measure a human characteristic well, we gain a valuable description of individuals on the dimension of interest. However, in the behavioral and social sciences, we often intend to measure dimensions – such as anxiety, loneliness, or social support – that are intrinsically difficult to measure, especially when compared with measurement of corporeal dimensions, such as blood pressure, glucose levels, or height and weight. Despite difficulties arising when measuring dimensions like anxiety and loneliness, accurate measurement is a valuable adjunct in many everyday treatment situations and is the backbone of basic and applied research in science.

Allen, M. J., & Yen, W. M. (1979). Introduction to measurement theory. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
McDonald, R. P. (1999). Test theory: A unified treatment. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.