One of the things social researchers are concerned with when measuring human behavior is making sure the measures we use are valid. That is, do the questions we ask measure what they are supposed to measure? For example, the 2004 General Social Survey asked individuals:
|There are different opinions as to what it takes to be a good citizen. As far as you are concerned personally on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is not at all important and 7 is very important, how important is it to help people in America who are worse off than yourself?|
Does this question tell us whether a person actually does anything to help others worse off? No. It simply tells us their attitude about the importance of helping those worse off. So this question does not measure helping behavior even if it asks about helping behavior. Sometimes we assume that attitudes and behaviors are the same, but often they are not.
This module uses data from the 2004 General Social Survey to explore the differences between attitudes and behaviors.
Download the Word document
Download the PDF file