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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

MAN IN THE  MODERN WORLD
In regard to multiple causation, we may look forward to an ex-
tended use of techniques of mathematical correlation. These have
already been developed to a high pitch for dealing with problems of
multiple causation in physical science, and special methods have been
worked out by Spearman and his school for dealing with psychological
questions. The use of probability methods is also indicated, Here
again, these have been developed to a high pitch for use in natural
science, Mathematical methods also enter into another technique
which is now being rapidly developed in social science, that of the
questionnaire, and especially the set of questions asked by the trained
interviewer. The questionnaire method is widely used, but the re-
luctance or inability of large sections of the public to fill up its
elaborate forms restricts its sphere and impairs its sampling accuracy.
The success of the method in this form depends chiefly on two things
—the proper framing of the questions and the obtaining of a truly
representative sample of the population to answer them.
Some questions do not admit of a significant answer, or any answer
at all; others will defeat their own ends by influencing the form of the
answer. In any case, the method of questioning a representative
sample of a large population can only be applied to a restricted set of
problems, though within limitations it may become extremely effi-
cient. The modern scientific public opinion poll, indeed, is develop-
ing such uncanny accuracy that it is infringing upon practical politics.
Some people are asking whether a properly conducted straw ballot
could not be profitably substituted for the trouble and expense of a
full election; while others feel that the announcement of a straw vote
may itself influence the course of the subsequent election.
Psychologists are busy devising modifications of the questionnaire
method so as to build up objective rating scales (objective, that is, for
the population of which the questionees are a representative sample)
for various value-judgments. In addition, they are essaying to assess
the distribution among the population of various human qualities.
Intelligence-testing has long been practised, and is now approaching
full scientific validity. Attempts are also being made to assess tem-
perament and even more elusive qualities. The method of Mass
Observation constitutes an attempt to attain objective information on
various aspects of public opinion and behaviour which elude the
method of yes-and-no questioning. Inquiries may concern the re-
action of the public to a particular place, like the Zoo or the National
Gallery; to a particular event, like the Coronation; to a particular
activity, such as smoking or the time of rising; or to a general situa-
tion, like that of war. In some cases, composite pictures which could
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