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Can Functions Be Measured? A New Perspective on the Functional Approach to Attitudes

Gregory M. Herek
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 50, No. 4 (Dec., 1987), pp. 285-303
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2786814
Page Count: 19
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Can Functions Be Measured? A New Perspective on the Functional Approach to Attitudes
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Abstract

This paper argues for the value of a reformulated and reoperationalized functional approach to attitudes. The development of two new procedures for directly assessing functions is described. First, a content analysis procedure was devised, using essays written by undergraduate students describing their attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Patterns of themes were identified in the essays that indicate the presence of three functions: Experiential-Schematic, Defensive and Self-Expressive. Correlations with theoretically relevant measures indicate that the content analysis procedure effectively assesses attitude functions. In a second study, an objectively-scored method, the Attitude Functions Inventory (AFI), was developed and used to assess the functions served by attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and toward persons with three stigmatizing disabilities: AIDS, mental illness and cancer. In the AFI, the Self-Expressive function observed in the first study was subdivided into Social-Expressive and Value-Expressive functions. Preliminary data support the AFI's validity. Theoretical and methodological implications for future research are discussed.

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