Bogardus Scale: Definition & Example

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The Bogardus scale is a social distance scale that measures prejudice—or, more precisely, the degrees of warmth, intimacy, indifference or hostility—between an individual and any social, racial or ethnic groups.

Developed by Emory Bogardus in 1924 and named after him, the Bogardus social distance scale is one of the oldest psychological attitude scales still in use. It’s unidimensional, which means it can be used to measure exactly one concept (prejudice). But though it was created to measure prejudice against other racial groups, it is broad enough it can be used in reference to almost any societal group (homeless people, artists, atheists, circus dancers, ISIS members, etc.,).

An Example of the Bogardus Scale

The Bogardus scale is framed as a series of questions, asking the individual what the closest degree of intimacy is that he or she would be willing to admit a member of the group in question. These questions are typically written in a form similar to this:

  • Would you be willing to marry a member of this group? (Agreement to this gives a score of 1.00)
  • Would you be willing to accept a member of this group as a close, personal friend? (Score: 2.00)
  • Would you be okay with having a member of this group as a neighbor, living on your street? (Score: 3.00)
  • Would you be okay with having a member of this group as a coworker in your occupation, at your workplace? (Score: 4.00)
  • Would you be okay with having a member of this group as a citizen of your country? (Score: 5.00)
  • Would you be okay with having a member of this group as a non-citizen visitor to your country? (Score: 6.00)
  • Would you want to exclude members of this group from visiting your country? (Score: 7.00)

The Bogardus scale is called a Guttman, or cumulative scale, because if you agree with any statement it is assumed you agree (or, in the case of the last, disagree with) all those less extreme than yours. “Less extreme” on this list would be all ratings with a value higher than the rating you are agreeing to. For instance, if you respond that you’d be happy to marry a circus dancer, you are given a score of 1.00 and it is assumed you would also be willing to accept a circus dancer as your friend, as your co-worker, and as your fellow-citizen. Similarly, if you would be willing to have a Hindu person as a neighbour on your street (score: 3.00), it is assumed you’d also be happy with him as a citizen in your country.


Bogardus’ Social Distance Scale
retrieved from on March 10, 2018

Wark, Colin & F. Galliher, John. (2007). Emory Bogardus and the Origins of the Social Distance Scale. The American Sociologist. 38. 383-395. 10.1007/s12108-007-9023-9. Retrieved from on March 10, 2018

Bogardus Social Distance Scale. A Dictionary of Sociology, Oxford Index.
retrieved from on March 10, 2018

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