In a study on speed-dating, Kevin plans to measure the construct of ‘likeability’. Which one of the following operational definitions of ‘likeability’ should Kevin decide to use?
- “How likeable a participant seems to be”
- “The number of times a participant smiles during the speed-dating session”
- “How friendly a participant acts when meeting other people during the speed-dating session
- “How many times a participant looks another person in the eye when talking to them”
Kevin should decide to use Option 2 as his way of operationalizing the variable “likability.” Options 1 and 3 are not quantifiable while Option 4 depends more on the other person in the speed dating couple than Option 2 does.
Option 1 and Option 3 are clearly poor choices. When we operationalize a variable in the social sciences, we want to do so in a way that makes the variable objectively quantifiable. We want every researcher to be able to get the same result as they measure the variable. Options 1 and 3 are merely opinions and different researchers might have different opinions as to who seems likable or friendly.
Option 4 is harder to eliminate. It is an objective measure and all researchers who look at a given subject ought to be able to agree on how many times that person looks the other in the eye. However, this measure does depend on the other dater. If we are trying to measure how likable Person A is, we do not want that to depend on Person B’s responses. The number of times that Person A looks Person B in the eye does not just depend on Person A. Person A might be trying to look Person B in the eye and Person B might be looking down or away. If we want to measure an attribute of Person A, we should use something that is under his or her control.
This is why Option 2 is the best answer. It can be objectively measured and it is almost completely in the control of the person we are trying to study.