Facts & Interpretations
To the Editor:
Lewis Coser in his review of my book, Education and Attitude Change [January], quite correctly points out that the question “Are Jews different from other people?” cannot be taken as a pure measure of prejudice. However, he then goes on to ask, “What is one to make of an interpretation which classifies affirmative answers as prejudice?”
That affirmative answers to this question were not classified in this way should have been clear to Dr. Coser from the following on page 33 of the book: “The words, “Are Jews different from other people?” are factual; they do not refer to unfavorable traits that might be attributed to Jews. Taking the question in this factual sense, the less educated, who may know less about distinctive Jewish traits such as diet, customs or even religion might tend to answer in the negative. . . . Factual rather than subjective interpretation of the question may also account for the relative frequency with which presumably sophisticated people describe Jews as ‘different’.” Or from the following on page 35: “Depending on the respondent’s interpretation, a positive answer may indicate hostility or may merely reflect familiarity with Jewish ways.” Or perhaps from this statement on page 43: “There is reason to believe that the question, ‘Are Jews different from other people?’ sometimes measures familiarity with Jewish customs and traits rather than prejudice.”
. . . . It seems hardly appropriate to refer to the inclusion of this question as a “methodological shortcoming” of this book.
Charles Herbert Stember
Mr. Coser writes:
Professor Stember only confirms my initial statement that this question is so ineptly worded that the resultant answers are meaningless. What is one to make of a question which elicits both “factual” answers and “unfavorable images of the Jew?” If Stember was primarily concerned with factual responses, why did he include these tables in a study which is concerned with prejudice?