Introduction to ATTITUDE

From D. Heise and Elsa Lewis,
Documentation for Programs Interact and Attitude (Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1988).
To run ATTITUDE you put the disk in the default disk drive and type the name of the program, "attitude", followed by ENTER.

The ATTITUDE menu offers five choices. Pressing Q is what you do when you want to quit and return to the computer operating system. R is what you press to begin doing actual ratings. After you've done some ratings you can press S to see statistics and G to see the statistics transformed into a graph. But all that is in the future. For now, press I in order to get instructions.

ATTITUDE Instructions

The first screen of instructions mentions the purpose of ATTITUDE and invites you to press the space bar in order to proceed. Pressing SPACE is always the way you proceed to the next step in ATTITUDE.

The second screen shows a stimulus in a box. A stimulus is a word or phrase that generates some sort of feelings which are to be measured. It could be anything, but stimuli that are useful in INTERACT refer to kinds of people, attributes of people, kinds of social behavior, or social settings.

ATTITUDE burps softly and blinks the box when a new stimulus appears in order to call your attention to it.

The next screen shows you the scale used in ATTITUDE. It stretches from one side of the screen to the other, and it has adverbs printed beneath it to mark off units of measurement. Right in the middle is the word "neutral", and that corresponds to zero. The next word outward is "slightly" which corresponds to +1 (or -1). The next word, "quite", is +2 (or -2), and "extremely" is +3 (or -3). Way at the ends the word "infinitely" marks the positions that get scored as +4.3 (or -4.3): the word "infinitely" translates to a number considerably less!

Of course the scale isn't complete yet because you can't tell what it is supposed to measure. Press SPACE, and the next screen fixes that. The word GOOD appears at one end, and BAD appears at the other end of the scale. Now the scale can measure something: how good or bad something is--your evaluation of the stimulus. Ratings on the good side get treated as positive numbers, and ratings on the bad side are negative.

The adjectives which define the scale's meaning are not always the same. Sometimes the scale is used to measure potency, from POWERFUL on the positive side to POWERLESS on the negative side. Other times the scale measures activity with LIVELINESS for positive numbers and QUIETNESS translating to negative numbers.

Evaluation, Potency, and Activity--abbreviated EPA--are the three primary measurements used in ATTITUDE. These measurements represent elemental responses found in humans around the world, and the three measurements provide crucial information about what a stimulus means to people.

The next screen brings in a blinking pointer right at the middle of the scale, and you are invited to move it by pressing the left-arrow or the right-arrow on the cursor pad. Press one of these keys and, presto, the little pointer moves along the scale! You can hold the arrow keys down to get continuous movement. (On some computers NUMber LOCK has to be off for this to work; if the pointer doesn't move press the NUM LOCK key once and try again.)

Now you are all set really to begin measuring. There's a stimulus up at the top: "helping someone." There's a ruler for measuring how good or bad it is. And there is a pointer to move along the scale until you have it at the spot that represents your judgment. Positioning the pointer between adverbs allows you to make fine distinctions. For example, if you put the pointer halfway between slightly and quite on the good side, the computer would read that as +1.50.

You move the pointer to the spot that reflects how good or bad you think helping someone is, and then you press SPACE. Pressing SPACE is how you tell the computer: "This is my decision. Record it, and let's move on."

The next screen of instructions gives you a chance to practice some more by rating "an enemy" on a scale from powerless to powerful.

Then "a stranger" is presented as a stimulus, and you are invited to rate it as exactly neutral in order to learn the trick required for neutral ratings--moving the pointer off-center and back before you press space. This is in the program so that nobody gets lazy and keeps hitting space.

Finally you see the stimulus, "a polymath", and the program tells you what to do when you don't know what a word means. You press the key marked ESC (for escape), and all of the ratings for that word are skipped. There is, however, a long pause before you go on to the next word--again to prevent laziness when the program is used in general research.

After you press ESC, the instructions end, and ATTITUDE's menu reappears on the screen.

Entering Stimuli

The program comes with some stimuli that you could rate using the R option, but those stimuli might not be of much interest to you. Anyway you have to learn how to define new stimuli so that the ATTITUDE program will be useful. So the best thing to do next is to quit ATTITUDE by pressing the letter Q.

The first step in defining new stimuli is to get rid of the old stimuli. This you do by deleting certain files that contain the stimuli. Here are the instructions to the computer which you type, each line followed by ENTER.


DEL DATA The first command removes forever the file that contained the old stimuli. The second command removes forever the file that contained ratings of the old stimuli. Actually these commands are pretty drastic, and later on you may want to define new stimuli while keeping your old work. In that case it would be better just to rename the files as follows.


REN DATA DATA.OLD You could rename the files anything that is meaningful to you, as long as there are no more than eight letters in the first part of a name and no more than three characters after the period.

Whether you delete or rename, ATTITUDE won't find the STIMULI and DATA files the next time you run the program, and therefore the program will go into a special routine before it presents its menu. So now enter the word ATTITUDE, and let's see what happens.

The screen clears and the following line is printed:


Enter stimulus text (or 0 to end):
The computer is waiting for you to type something followed by ENTER. If you type some letters, they will appear on the screen. As usual on a computer, you can erase what you typed by pressing the backspace key.

Let's make up a new stimuli list consisting of "us" and "our enemies." Thus in response to the first prompt we type:


Then we get a repetition of the same prompt, and we type:


our enemies ENTER
The prompt appears again. Since that is the end of the list we type zero:



The menu appears then, and ATTITUDE is ready to collect ratings on our new stimuli. Moreover, the program has stored the stimuli in a new STIMULI file, so these stimuli will be available anytime we run ATTITUDE in the future.

Making Ratings

Now we are ready to assemble data concerning our feelings about "us" and "our enemies." Press R to start the rating task.

Everything works just like it did in the instructions. Stimuli appear in boxes at the top of the screen, blinking and burping as they come. The measurement scale stretches along the bottom of the screen, and a blinking pointer is at the middle ready to move with the cursor keys. Words defining the scale are printed at either end. You move the pointer to an appropriate spot and press SPACE to record your judgment and go on to the next rating.

But stay alert! The program is arranging things so that you never are sure exactly what will happen next. The rating task may start by presenting "us" first, or it may start with "our enemies" first. The three measurements of evaluation (E), potency (P), and activity (A) appear in all different orders as ratings continue. Further, the positive side of each scale may be on the right side one time and on the left side the next time.

All this randomization makes ATTITUDE a nifty measurement device. The rater (you) has to keep attention on the task. And any effects of having one thing coming before another get washed away in the long run because the order of everything constantly changes.

Proceed by rating "us" and "our enemies" on all three scales.

When you have made one complete pass through the task, ATTITUDE will return you to its menu. Along the way it creates a new DATA file to store your judgments for future reference.

So. Done with the rating task, right? Well.... you could be because now ATTITUDE has stored one set of judgments concerning how you feel about the stimuli. But social researchers know that one set of judgments isn't very reliable. Your ratings would change a little if you went through the rating task again right away, and some judgments might change a fair amount if you waited and did it tomorrow. The fact is, you really should rate stimuli at least twice to get more reliable measurements.

Do it! Hit the R key again, and go through the judgments again.

Once again, when you complete the task ATTITUDE will return to its menu, and along the way the program stores your second set of judgments in the DATA file, adding them to the first set of judgments, cumulating your responses. Next we will see what kind of use is made of the multiple responses.


As mentioned previously, ATTITUDE converts your judgments to numerical form. When you are at the menu again, press S to have the program report those numbers.

ATTITUDE clears the screen and prints the first stimulus at the upper left. That is followed by "N=2", which tells you that the numbers being reported are based on two sets of ratings. If you had done more ratings in order to improve reliability, then N would equal a larger figure.

Then there are three columns. Each row within the columns first shows a word identifying the positive side of an EPA scale. The number following the word is the average rating of the stimulus on that rating scale.

The average is computed as follows: add up the numerical values of all the judgments, and divide by the number of judgments. Computing an average like this is how ATTITUDE improves the reliability of measurements. The program works out the middle point among all judgments you made of a stimulus on a particular scale, ignores the deviations, and uses that middle point as the best estimate of how you generally feel.

The last number in a row reveals something about the deviations, how greatly one rating varied from another. This number is a "standard deviation", the average distance of individual ratings from the overall average rating. The bigger this number is, the more you varied your response from one trial to the next.

The last line of the display says "GRAPH PROFILE", and three numbers are listed. These are simply the average values again, listed in a different order: A P E. We'll talk about this soon.

When you press SPACE all of the same materials are presented for the second stimulus, "our enemies." Press SPACE again, and the program returns to its menu because that was the last stimulus.

As it returns to the menu, ATTITUDE creates a new file called STATS to store the average values it presented. This step is quite important in using ATTITUDE with INTERACT. You must look at statistics to create or update the STATS file.


The statistics option summarizes all information about ratings of stimuli, but it doesn't provide much insight into how stimuli differ from one another. ATTITUDE's graphing option helps with that. Press G to see the graph.

A grid fills the screen, and graphing axes ranging from -4 to +4 run through the middle of the grid. The horizontal axis represents the activity dimension of EPA, and the vertical axis represents potency.

Each stimulus is plotted on the graph according to its average activity and potency ratings--the first two numbers of the "graph profile" reported in the statistics option. Thus, if you rated "us" as lively and potent, then it would appear in the upper right section of the graph. You might have rated "our enemies" as lively and potent, too, in which they case that stimulus also would appear in the same section, though in a different position reflecting whether you think our enemies are livelier or quieter than us, and whether they are stronger or weaker.

Stimuli are represented on the graph by abbreviations made from their first three letters. So "us" appears as "us" but "our enemies" shows up on the graph as "our." Additionally the abbreviations are capitalized or not to display some information about the third EPA dimension, evaluation. Capitals show that the average evaluation of the stimulus was positive, whereas the abbreviation is in its original letters if it was evaluated negatively.

If you have a printer attached to your computer you can print the graph while it is displayed on the screen by holding down the SHIFT key and pressing the PrtSc key.

Press SPACE when you are done looking at the graph, and you will be returned to the menu. Press Q to quit ATTITUDE.

Tips, Traps, and Tricks

On some computers the cursor movement keys form a diamond pattern on the number pad. The backspace key--used to erase unwanted type--is usually found on the keyboard above the ENTER key.

When typing numbers use the number keys on the top row of the keyboard. Make sure you type the number zero "0" and not the letter "O". Also, don't confuse the number one "1" with the lowercase letter "l".

When dealing with DEL DATA if message "File not Found?" appears, this means that no file existed so continue.

In order to transfer information from ATTITUDE to INTERACT the STATS file must be created. You have to choose the S option in ATTITUDE and go through the stimuli one by one.

You can look at or print the graph after you leave ATTITUDE. It is stored in a file named GRAPH on the default drive. However, file GRAPH is over-written each time that G is chosen from the ATTITUDE menu so rename it if you want to keep it.

You can make ATTITUDE read a stimuli file other than STIMULI by entering a line like the following in order to run the program.


attitude ST=stimuli.old 
You must capitalize ST in order to have this work.

You'll get in trouble if you use a special stimuli file when there is a DATA file for another stimuli list. ATTITUDE will recognize that the stimuli to be rated are not the same as the stimuli in the DATA file and give you an error message and stop. However, you could use an old stimuli file and cumulate data into its corresponding data file with a line like the following.


attitude ST=stimuli.old DA=data.old 
Again the capitals are imperative.

You even can make ATTITUDE use different adjectives to define scales, but that is complicated and far afield from using the program with INTERACT. Check the ATTITUDE Documentation if you want to do it.

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1997 David Heise