Rensis Likert

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Rensis Likert
Born (1903-08-05)August 5, 1903
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Died September 3, 1981(1981-09-03) (aged 78)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Cause of death bladder cancer
Resting place Forest Hill Cemetery (Ann Arbor, Michigan) (Lot 50, Number 8)
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Michigan
Columbia University
Employer USDA
University of Michigan
Known for Likert Scale, Likert’s Management Systems, Linking pin model
Spouse(s) Jane Gibson Likert
Parent(s) George Herbert Likert, Cora A.

Rensis Likert (/ˈlɪkərt/ lik-ərt; born August 5, 1903, Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.—died September 3, 1981, Ann Arbor, Michigan) was an American social psychologist who is primarily known for developing the 5-point Likert scale, a psychometric scale that allows people to respond to questions of interest, in order to measure people's attitudes (such as personality and attitude tests).

In 1926, Likert received his B.A. in economics and sociology from the University of Michigan, and in 1932 he received a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. Likert went on to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture until 1946, when he was influenced by World War II to work for the Office of War Information.[1] With the OWI, he was appointed head of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey Morale Division (USSBS) in 1944.[1]

After retirement at the age of 67, he formed Rensis Likert Associates, an institution that based their ideas on his theories of management in organizational psychology. He wrote numerous books in regards to topics of management, conflict, and applications of behavioral research. A few of his works include New Ways of Managing Conflict (1976) and Human Organization: Its Management and Value (1967). Although he was a psychologist, Likert's contributions in business management helped managers organize their subordinates more effectively. Also, Likert founded the theory of participative management, which was used to engage employees in the workplace and ultimately allow them to enjoy their job more. Likert's contributions in psychometrics, research samples, and more (including open-ended interviewing) have led to the forming and shaping of social and organizational psychology.

Early life/Personal life[edit]

Rensis Likert was born in 1903 to George Herbert Likert and Cornelia Adrianna (Cora) Likert in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Influenced by his father, who worked as an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad, Likert studied civil engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for three years. He worked as an intern with the Union Pacific Railroad during the watershed 1922 strike, which is where his spark for studying organizations and their behavior originated from. Likert decided to switch from studying civil engineering to economics and sociology at the University of Michigan, because of an influential professor named Robert Angell. He received his B.A in sociology in 1926. After graduation, he studied at the Union Theological Seminary for one year. Likert went on to receive his Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia University in 1932.[2] While studying at Columbia University, he approached the discipline of social psychology, which was a fairly recent field at this time. He would end up co-authoring a book titled Public Opinion and the Individual (1938) with his mentor at Columbia, Gardner Murphy. He married June Gibson while he was studying at Columbia University, who he had met at the University of Michigan.[2] They had two daughters: Elizabeth and Patricia.[3] In 1969, Likert retired as the director of the Institute for Social Research.[3] He moved to Honolulu, Hawaii with his wife, where he continued on with his work by forming Rensis Likert Associates. Likert died at the age of 78 on September 3, 1981 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was survived by his wife, Jane Gibson (3 June 1902 – 19 November 1997).

Career[edit]

Life Insurance Agency Management Association[edit]

In 1935, Likert became the director of research for the Life Insurance Agency Management Association (LIAMA) in Hartford, Connecticut. During his time there, Likert began a program of research comparing and evaluating the effectiveness of different modes of supervision.[4]

United States Department of Agriculture[edit]

In 1939, Likert was invited to organize the Division of Program Surveys (DPS) in the Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS). The purpose of the DPS was to gather farmers' thoughts toward the New Deal programs sponsored by USDA, and to challenge the effects of the Great Depression. Soon after, it was used in other governmental agencies during WWII, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of War Information, and the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. Likert continued to recruit other social psychologists into his growing government survey department.[5]

Institute for Social Research[edit]

At war's end the Department of Agriculture were forced by conservative Congressmen to stop its social survey work. Likert and his team (many of them academics on temporary wartime duty) decided to move together to a university. After scouting Cornell and Chicago, they accepted an offer in summer 1946 from the University of Michigan.[6] They formed the Survey Research Center (SRC) at the University of Michigan. This became the Institute for Social Research (ISR) in 1949 when Dorwin Cartwright moved the Center for Group Dynamics from MIT to the University of Michigan.[7] Likert was the director of ISR until 1970, when he retired.

Rensis Likert Associates[edit]

Upon retirement he founded Rensis Likert Associates to consult for numerous corporations. He also helped start what is now known as the Institute for Corporate Productivity. During his tenure, Likert devoted particular attention to research on organizations. During the 1960s and 1970s, his books on management theory were closely studied in Japan and their impact can be seen across modern Japanese organizations. He did research on major corporations around the world, and his studies have accurately predicted the subsequent performance of the corporations.[8]

Contributions[edit]

Open-ended interviewing[edit]

Likert contributed to the field of psychometrics by developing open-ended interviewing, a technique used to collect information about a person’s thoughts, experience, and preferences. It was common in the 1930s for researchers to use objective, closed-ended questions in order for the coding process to be valid. While this technique was used well in many domains, Likert saw the need for more opportunity to ask people about their attitudes towards various issues. Within open-ended interviewing, he and his colleagues invented the "funneling technique", which is a way to keep the interview open for comments, but directed in a specific way. The interview would begin with the open-ended questions, but gradually move into more narrowed questions. Open-ended interviewing is highly used today in research studies when there is a need to understand people’s attitudes.

Likert scale[edit]

The Likert scale, commonly known as the 5-point Likert scale, is Rensis Likert's best-known contribution. He devised the scale in 1932 as a part of his Ph.D. thesis as a way to identify the extent of a person's attitudes and feelings towards international affairs.[9] Today, the 5-point Likert scale is useful in the social sciences and attitude-related research projects. Likert scales have a range of responses (generally 5, but sometimes more) in which a person selects the most appropriate response following a statement or series of statements.[10] Typically, there are 5 categories of possible response selections that a person chooses from. These choices lie on a range from strongly agree (SA), agrees (A), is undecided (U), disagrees (D), or strongly disagrees (SD).[10] There is debate among researchers on what the optimum number of responses a person should be able to choose from.[10]

Department of Agriculture[edit]

During World War II, Likert, as the Director of the Division of Program Surveys in the United States Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Agricultural Economics (B.A.E.), ran surveys first for U.S.D.A. but as the war progressed the Division ran surveys for many different governmental agencies including the Office of War Information, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board and in 1944-45, the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. In 1943, he developed the first national geographic sampling frame. Likert, although not at a university at the time, was actively recruiting other social psychologists into his expanding government survey shop during the war.

Institute for Social Research[edit]

At war's end the Department of Agriculture were forced by conservative Congressmen to stop its social survey work. Likert and his team (many of them academics on temporary wartime duty) decided to move together to a university. After scouting Cornell and Chicago, they accepted an offer in summer 1946 from the University of Michigan.[11] They formed the Survey Research Center (SRC) at the University of Michigan. This became the Institute for Social Research (ISR) in 1949 when Dorwin Cartwright moved the Center for Group Dynamics from MIT to the Michigan.[12] Likert was the director of ISR until 1970, when he retired.

Rensis Likert Associates[edit]

Upon retirement he founded Rensis Likert Associates to consult for numerous corporations. He also helped start what is now known as the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). During his tenure, Rensis Likert devoted particular attention to research on organizations. During the 1960s and 1970s, his books on management theory were closely studied in Japan and their impact can be seen across modern Japanese organizations. He did research on major corporations around the world, and his studies have accurately predicted the subsequent performance of the corporations.

Management systems[edit]

Likert's Management Systems are management styles developed by Rensis Likert in the 1950s.[13][14] He outlined four systems of management to describe the relationship, involvement, and roles of managers and subordinates in industrial settings. The four management systems are: 1) Exploitative Authoritative 2) Benevolent Authoritative 3) Consultative System 4) Participative System.

Professional achievements[edit]

Books[edit]

The following are books that Rensis Likert authored, or contributed to:[16]

  • A Method for Coping with Conflict in Problem Solving Groups (1978)
  • New Ways of Managing Conflict (1976) (with Jane Gibson Likert)
  • Human Organization : Its Management and Value (1967)
  • New Patterns of Management (1961)
  • The Presidents Column (1959)
  • Developing patterns in management (American Management Association, 1955)
  • Technique for the Measurement of Professional Attitudes (1932) [17]

Co-editor:

  • Some applications of Behavioral Research (1957)
  • Moral and Agency Management (1940-1944) [17]
  • Public Opinion and the Individual (1938)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Capshew, James. Psychologists on the March. Cambridge: Cambridge. ISBN 0 521 56585 5. 
  2. ^ a b "Memorial | Faculty History Project". um2017.org. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  3. ^ a b c "Obituaries". ur.umich.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  4. ^ Witzel, Morgen (2005). Encyclopedia of History of American Management. Bristol BS1 5RR, England: Thoemmes. p. 329. ISBN 1843711311. 
  5. ^ Kish, Leslie. "Rensis Likert: Social Scientist and Entrepreneur" (PDF). AgEconSearch. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Kish, Leslie. "Rensis Likert: Social Scientist and Entrepreneur" (PDF). AgEconSearch. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c "Rensis Likert". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  8. ^ Mehta, Amitabh (Dec 1, 2009). Organisation Development. New Delhi: Global India Publications. p. 156. ISBN 9789380228273. 
  9. ^ "Rensis Likert". Med Library. open source encyclopedia. 
  10. ^ a b c "Using Likert-Type Scales in the Social Sciences". Journal of Adult Education. April 17, 2016. 
  11. ^ Converse (1987) pp 540-41
  12. ^ Converse (1987) pp 541
  13. ^ Likert, Developing patterns in management (1955).
  14. ^ John W. Hall, "A comparison of Halpin and Croft's organizational climates and Likert and Likert's organizational systems," Administrative Science Quarterly (1972) 17#4 pp 586-590.
  15. ^ View/Search Fellows of the ASA, accessed 2016-07-23.
  16. ^ Rensis Likert Biography (2005). Retrieved November 2, 2011, from http://www.bookrags.com/biography/rensis-likert-soc/
  17. ^ a b Kish, Leah. "The Memorian: Rensis Likert". The American Statistican. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Brewer, J. D. (1968). Review of The Human Organization. American Sociological Review, 33(5), 825-826
  • Converse, Jean M. (1987) Survey Research in the United States: Roots and Emergence 1890-1960 (U of California Press)
  • Effrat, A. (1968). Review: Democratizing and Producing. Science, 162(3859), 1260-1261.
  • Hall, J. W. (1972). A Comparison of Halpin and Croft's Organizational Climates and Likert and Likert's Organizational Systems. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(4), 586-590.
  • Huczynski, A.A. and Buchanan, D.A. (2007). Organizational Behaviour. 6th Edition, Pearson Education.