Objectivity in psychosocial measurement: what, why, how.J Outcome Meas. 2000; 4(2):527-63.JO
This article raises and tries to answer questions concerning what objectivity in psychosocial measurement is, why it is important, and how it can be achieved. Following in the tradition of the Socratic art of maiuetics, objectivity is characterized by the separation of meaning from the geometric, metaphoric, or numeric figure carrying it, allowing an ideal and abstract entity to take on a life of its own. Examples of objective entities start from anything teachable and learnable, but for the purposes of measurement, the meter, gram, volt, and liter are paradigmatic because of their generalizability across observers, instruments, laboratories, samples, applications, etc. Objectivity is important because it is only through it that distinct conceptual entities are meaningfully distinguished. Seen from another angle, objectivity is important because it defines the conditions of the possibility of shared meaning and community. Full objectivity in psychosocial measurement can be achieved only by attending to both its methodological and its social aspects. The methodological aspect has recently achieved some notice in psychosocial measurement, especially in the form of Rasch's probabilistic conjoint models. Objectivity's social aspect has only recently been noticed by historians of science, and has not yet been systematically incorporated in any psychosocial science. An approach to achieving full objectivity in psychosocial measurement is adapted from the ASTM Standard Practice for Conducting an Interlaboratory Study to Determine the Precision of a Test Method (ASTM Committee E-11 on Statistical Methods, 1992).