chapter  4
Concepts and their measurement
Pages 20

CO N C E P T S F O R M A linchpin in the process of social research. Hypothesescontain concepts which are the products of our reflections on the world. Concepts express common elements in the world to which we give a name. We may notice that some people have an orientation in which they dislike people of a different race from their own, often attributing to other races derogatory characteristics. Still others are highly supportive of racial groups, perhaps seeing them as enhancing the ‘host’ culture through instilling new elements into it and hence enriching it. Yet others are merely tolerant, having no strong views one way or the other about people of other racial groups. In other words, we get a sense that people exhibit a variety of positions in regard to racial groups. We may want to suggest that there is a common theme to these attitudes, even though the attitudes themselves may be mutually antagonistic. What seems to bind these dispositions together is that they reflect different positions in regard to ‘racial prejudice’. In giving the various dispositions that may be held regarding persons of another race a name, we are treating it as a concept, an entity over and above the observations about racial hostility and supportiveness that prompted the formulation of a name for those observations. Racial prejudice has acquired a certain abstractness, so that it transcends the reflections that prompted its formulation. Accordingly, the concept of racial prejudice becomes something that others can use to inform their own reflections about the social world. In this way, hypotheses can be formulated which postulate connections between racial prejudice and other concepts, such as that it will be related to social class or to authoritarianism.