Chapter Activities

Experiential Exercises

(1) Instruct small groups of students to conceptualize a concept of interest (e.g., fear, conformity, conservatism, liberalism, etc.). Remind them to be specific and review the textbook to get an idea of how to conceptualize. When all groups have a definition, ask each to share with the class. Have the class discuss the merits and potential problems with each.

(2) This in-class exercise demonstrates the extent to which different concepts can have different meanings for different people. Ask students to imagine they pick up the newspaper one morning and read the following in a business article: “John Smitena was laid off from the Federworks Factory last year as part of a downsizing effort. Like many other laid-off workers, Mr. Smitena’s children are now hungry most of the time.” Point out that they probably don’t need a dictionary to figure out what this means because the critical terms in the article--“laid off,” “downsizing,” “workers,” “children,” and “hungry”--are widely understood and commonly used (much too commonly). Propose a test of this assertion before asking students to state out loud what meaning they give to each term. Have each student take five small blank pieces of paper and write a brief definition of each of the five terms, one definition per paper. Tally up the results for each term on the board: how many definitions were similar and how many were different? As a class, operationalize a definition for each of the five concepts.

(3) In this project, you will develop measures of the content of television programs. You could team up with two or three other classmates for this project. In most instances, it will help to focus your attention on one type of programming (news, soap operas, children’s programs, sports, etc.)

(a) Identify a concept or concepts of interest that could be operationalized with the content of a TV program. Some possibilities include interpersonal violence, gender bias, police roles, stereotypes, or family interaction.

(b) Specify specific variables that reflect these concepts in the context of TV programs--for example, “frequency of arguments” to measure family conflict or “number of intentionally inflicted deaths or injuries by others” to measure interpersonal violence.

(c) Develop a specific measurement procedure that operationalizes each concept. By this point, you should be thinking in terms of specific TV programs. An example for “frequency of arguments” would be “count the number of arguments between family members in each program or episode, with one argument represented by the period between the start of angry vocalizations or abusive treatment and ending when these behaviors subside.” Prepare a grid for recording scores for each measure and each program.

(d) Try out the measure(s) with one or two TV programs, note any problems, and revise the measurement procedure(s) if necessary.

(e) Now code 4 hr of TV programs, noting any additional problems with the measurement procedures.

(f) Report on the distribution of scores on your measure(s). Review any measurement problems you have identified and suggest improvements in the measurement instrument.

2.Distribute part of the General Social Survey questionnaire (which can be found at Try to avoid questions on sociodemographic variables or simple reports of behaviors and experiences. Organize the class into groups of 4–5 students. Each group should try to determine the concept the questions or indexes were designed to measure. Then ask the group to develop a construct validation strategy involving other measures in the questionnaire that they think should be related to the question of interest--if it measures what they think it measures.

Individual and Group Activities

1. Concepts in the GSS

Provide students with the following instructions:

(a) Identify three concepts that interest you.

(b) Conceptualize each one.

(c) Go to the homepage for the General Social Survey at

(d) Select a version of the questionnaire and write down which version you select!

(e) Read through the questionnaire and identify all questions and indexes that would be reasonable measures of your concepts, whether they fit your conceptualization or not.

(f) Go through the questions selected in Step 5 and specifically justify why the questions are or are not appropriate given your conceptualization.

(g) If you were to complete a research study on this topic, what measures from the GSS would you use and why?