Research Methods


Linda Hartling (Clinical/Community Psychology)

Linda Hartling (Hartling & Luchetta, 1999) pioneered a quantitative questionnaire on humiliation (Humiliation Inventory) where a rating from 1 to 5 is employed for questions measuring "being teased," "bullied," "scorned," "excluded," "laughed at," "put down," "ridiculed," "harassed," "discounted," "embarrassed," "cruelly criticized," "treated as invisible," "discounted as a person," "made to feel small or insignificant," "unfairly denied access to some activity, opportunity, or service," "called names or referred to in derogatory terms," or viewed by others as "inadequate," or "incompetent." The questions probe the extent to which respondents had felt harmed by such incidents throughout life, and how much they feared such incidents.

On 03/04/2006, Linda Hartling kindly added:
I recently reviewed a dissertation that found a strong negative correlation between the "Quality of Life Inventory" (Michael Frisch, 1988) and my "Fear of Humiliation Subscale."  For the individuals in this study, the researcher found that greater fear of humiliation was strongly associated with poorer quality life (n=86). Furthermore, the researcher found a strong positive correlation between scores on the Quality of Life Inventory and the Mutual Psychological Development Questionnaire (Genero, Miller, & Surrey, 1992), meaning that greater mutuality in relationships was associated with a better quality of life for the respondents. Briefly, "mutuality" is the term we use to describe bi-directional movement in relationships that supports the growth of both (or all) people engaged in the relationship. I conceptualize humiliation as a severe "relational violation" that profoundly disrupts and obstructs movement, mutuality and growth in relationships.

On 07/04/2006, Linda kindly commented on the need for action:
... ultimately it will be crucial to our group to develop "systematic and systemic efforts to alleviate humiliation."
I think our work is at a very early stage of development. I continue to be amazed by the number of people Evelin has brought together who are beginning to sketch out the rugged terrain of humiliation, illustrating how it infects interpersonal, intersocial, and international relationships. At this point, I see us building a solid foundation of documentation that demonstrates the pervasive and pernicious nature of this phenomenon. We are attempting to precisely chart the territory so our actions will have the best opportunity to bring about constructive, lasting change.
Although a few of our contributors have developed promising systemic and systematic efforts (e.g., Molly Melching and the Tostan Project working to eliminate female genital cutting in Senegal), many of our contributors are still assessing and describing the impact of humiliation. They are helping us learn much as we can in order to address this experience in the most effective way.
As we come to understand more about the impact of humiliation, I think we will also begin to see our contributing scholars/activists develop many strategies for preventing and alleviating the pain inflicted by humiliation. With the support of people like you, I am sure our collaborative efforts will result in a growing list of practical actions.

Hartling, Linda M. (1996)
Humiliation: Assessing the Specter of Derision, Degradation, and Debasement
Doctoral dissertation, Union Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hartling, Linda M., Luchetta, Tracy (1999)
Humiliation: Assessing the Impact of Derision, Degradation, and Debasement
First published by: The Journal of Primary Prevention, 19(4): 259-278.

22.12.2005, Ray Hagtvedt kindly commented:
A structural equations model would shed light on correlations between measures and between hypothesized underlying factors. It would be exploratory, but would indicate further directions for research.


Evelin Lindner (Social Science)

The Role of Dignity and Humiliation in a Globalising World: New Forms of Cooperative Approaches to Solve New Social Dilemma Situations as well as Succeed in Intercultural Encounters
Guest lecture given at a workshop for graduate students, organised by Professor Hora Tjitra on the occasion of Lindner's visit to the Department of Applied Psychology, Zhejiang University, School of Psychology, Hangzhou, People's Republic of China, 13th April 2006
Please see a section on methodology in Reflections on Feedback from the Audience.

Interview Guidelines
These were the Interview Guidelines developed by Lindner in 1998 for her doctoral research on humiliation, entitled The Feeling of Being Humiliated: A Central Theme in Armed Conflicts.

How Research Can Humiliate: Critical Reflections on Method
In: Journal for the Study of Peace and Conflict, Annual Edition 2001-2002, pp. 16-36.


Jeff Victoroff (Social Science and Neurobehavior)

Introduction to the Oppression Questionnaire (OQ)
Unpublished manuscript; please do not disseminate, use, or quote without permission. The Arabic version of the OQ has now been piloted in Gaza and Lebanon. Your feedback is welcome!

Hroar Klempe
(Social Psychology)

Hroar Klempe and his colleagues are working out a measure for culture which represents an alternative to many other measures. Most of them are based on the suggestion that culture must be defined in terms of values (Hofstede), but also in terms of social organisation (Douglas & Wildavsky). Our measure is based on the suggestion that culture is defined in terms of symbolic exchanges, i.e. communication. This measure is suggested to be much more nuanced when it comes to differences between cultures, sub-cultures and marginal cultures. This will probably have a lot of implications on cross-cultural psychology in general, but also on humiliation studies. There are reasons to suggest that humiliation might be understood as an effect of communication. If that is true, a measure which is focusing on communication will represent an important basis for developing a measure for humiliation.


Jennifer S. Goldman (Social Psychology)

Jennifer Goldman earned her Ph.D. in 2007 in Social-Organizational Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her dissertation The Differential Effects of Collective-level vs. Personal-level Humiliating Experiences focuses on the role that humiliation plays in exacerbating violent social conflict. She is also a Graduate Research Fellow with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Jennifer looked at how different "emotional roles" associated with humiliation might lead individuals to either act aggressively as a result of being humiliated, or not. She is also looking at how the emotional roles might affect the vividness and strength of the emotional recall of humiliation. The purpose is to gain some empirical understanding of one way in which the humiliation-aggression cycle might work. Given the relatively small amount of empirical research that has already been done in this field, she is enjoying the entrepreneurial flavor, and also finds the process quite challenging at times as well.
Please see:
Peter T. Coleman and Jennifer Goldman, Conflict and Humiliation, note prepared for the Workshop on Humiliation and Violent Conflict, Columbia University, New York, November 18-19, 2004.
How Humiliation Fuels Intractable Conflict: The Effects of Emotional Roles on Recall and Reactions to Conflictual Encounters by Jennifer S. Goldman and Peter T. Coleman, work in progress, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2005.
A Theoretical Understanding of How Emotions Fuel Intractable Conflict: The Case of Humiliation by Jennifer S. Goldman and Peter T. Coleman (2005), paper prepared for Round Table 2 of the 2005 Workshop on Humiliation and Violent Conflict, Columbia University, New York, December 15-16, 2005.
Humiliation and Aggression, abstract prepared by Jennifer Goldman for Round Table 2 of the Workshop on Humiliation and Violent Conflict, Columbia University, New York, December 14-15, 2006.


Katrine Fangen (Sociology)

Katrine Fangen is conducting a post-doctoral study of Somalis living in Norway. The empirical material consists of interviews with both Norwegians and Somalis who work with Somali clients of various types. In addition, Katrine Fangen interviews Somalis in different positions in society, both families and single persons, both young and old. She also participates as an observer in focus-groups. She furthermore carries our fieldwork in Somalia. One focus is to examoine how experiences with humiliation express itself in the life of Somalis in exil, how Somalis verbalise these experiences, and which kind of help they wish or could think of applying for.


Michael Harris Bond (Social Psychology)

"We know much more about Culture and collective violence their opposites such as social dominance orientation (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) or hierarchic self-interest (Hagen, Ripple, Boehnke, & Merkens, 1999) and ethnocentrism (Altermeyer, 1988) along with specific scales designed to measure animus towards a specific target group, and the tendency to justifiy aggression (Caprara, Barbaranelli, & Zimbardo, 1996). Nonetheless, there are worldviews, like worldmindedness, defined by Sampson & Smith (1957) as “a frame of reference, or a value orientation favoring a world-view of the problem of humanity, with mankind, rather than the nationals of a particular country, as the primary reference group.” (p. 105), but rarely studied since (cf. Der-Karabetian, 1992). A number of personality orientations, like tolerance (Berry & Kalin, 1995) or Schwartz’s (1992) value of universalism, are also relevant and probably fall under the Big Five dimension of openness to Experience (Trapnell, 1994). These counter-ideologies are discussed at length in Bond (1999), but should probably be expanded to include training that runs counter to a belief in fate (Leung & Bond, 2005) as a controlling factor in human affairs," quoted from Bond, Michael Harris (2006). Culture and collective violence: How good people, usually men, do bad things. In Drozdek, Boris and Wilson, John P. (Eds.), Are We Lost in Translations? On Intercultural Encounters in Treatment of Complex Trauma and PTSD, New York, NY: Springer, pp. 51-52.
Berry, John W. and Kalin, R. (1995). Multicultural and Ethnic Attitudes in Canada: An Overview of the 1991 National Survey. In Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 27, pp. 301-320.

Bond, Michael Harris (1999). Unity in diversity: Orientations and strategies for building a harmonious multicultural society. In Adamopoulos, John and Kashima, Yoshihisa (Eds.) , Social Psychology and Cultural Context, pp. 17-39. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Capara, Gian-Vittorio, Barbaranelli, Claudio, and Zimbardo, Philip G. (1996). Understanding the Complexity of Human Aggression: Affective, Cognitive, and Social Dimensions of Individual Differences in Propensity Toward Aggression. In European Journal of Personality, 10, pp. 133-155.

Der-Karabetian, A. (1992). World-Mindedness and the Nuclear Threat: A Multinational Study. In Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 7, pp. 293-308.

Leung, Kwok and Bond, Michael Harris (2004). Social Axioms: A Model for Social Beliefs in Multicultural Perspective. In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 36, pp. 119-197.

Sampson, D. L. and Smith, H. P. (1957). A Scale to Measure World-Minded Attitudes. In Journal of Social Psychology, 45, pp. 99-106.

Sidanius, Jim and Pratto, Felicia (1999). Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Trapnell, P. D. (1994). Openness Versus Intellect: A Lexical Left Turn. In European Journal of Personality, 8, pp. 273-290.


Floyd Webster Rudmin (Social Psychology)

Floyd Rudmin's contribution to our What Now? session in our 2006 NY workshop:

Floyd’s suggestions for short-duration, spontaneous activities for something to do NOW that is productive:

1) create psychometric items for a scale measuring some aspect of humiliation
2) suggest a therapy paradigm
3) write a brief vignette exemplifying humiliation
4) devise a structural equation model of humiliation and revenge, including cultural, contextual and personal variables
5) describe a brief prototypical example of humiliation, and describe a marginal, weak, doubtful example.

Six Research Designs on Humiliation (2005)

First, humiliation is probably a universal human phenomenon, though this is not certain. There may be cultures with no conception or experience of humiliation, and there may be states of human incapacity or consciousness that preclude humiliation experiences. That it is universal means that humiliation type phenomena will be found world wide, but the incidence, seriousness, meaning, function and expression may vary considerably across cultures. Second, it is unethical to induce humiliation in order to study it. Therefore, empirical studies will have to exploit naturally occurring episodes of humiliation. Thus, it is imperative to discern which social contexts, which social roles, which personality types, which kinds of human endeavors have higher incidence of humiliation and which lower incidence.

Conceptual Studies
1) Free-recall semantic space of “humiliation” in English and in other languages: Words and concepts do not exist in isolation. They maintain their meaning and function, as well as their emotional overtones in their network with other words and concepts. A free-recall study might help discover words and concepts that are linked to humiliation in people’s minds. The tasks are as follows: a) Search dictionaries and thesauri to compile a list of 25 to 40 words that are related to “humiliation”, or the verb “humiliate”. b) Make 10 random orderings of these words, including “humiliation”. c) Make audio tapes of each ordering. d) Find a sample of competent native-speakers. e) Have them listen to one of the word lists, with instructions that they are to remember as many of these words as possible. f) Have an intervening task, like answering a few demographic questions about age and education. g) Have the subjects recall as many of the words as possible, while this is being recorded. h) Identify new words that were recalled that were not part of the original set. i) Tabulate which words were immediately adjacent to “humiliation”. j) People usually recall in clusters, separate by pauses. Identify all of the words in the cluster with “humiliation”. k) Tabulate the recall distance from “humiliate” for each word. l) From these data, make similarity or proximity matrices, one tabulating mutual occurrences in the “humiliation” cluster and one tabulating recall distance from “humiliation”. m) Do hierarchical cluster analysis to generate a display of the semantic space of “humiliation”.

2) Q-sort semantic network of “humiliation: Free-recall is drawing data from people’s unconscious processing. The same kind of network can be made by overt, semantic judgements. a) After free-recall studies have been done, compile the larger collection of words related to “humiliation”, consisting of the dictionary discovered words and the free-recall discovered words. b) Put each word on a note card, one word per card, perhaps 50 in total. c) Number the cards on the back side. d) Find a sample of competent native speakers, for example, students. e) Shuffle the deck of cards for each subject to make sure they each have a random ordering. f) Ask them to sort the cards into piles that have similar meanings, in their opinions. They can make as many or as few piles as they wish, and they may make adjustments and move cards during the sorting. g) Each pile constitutes a semantic cluster. Record the card numbers in each cluster. h) From these, make a proximity matrix, increasing a cell by one every time two words co-occurred in a subject’s sorting. i) Use cluster analysis to make a display of the semantic network.

3) Mental experiment of robot humiliation: Human experiences, thinking, and behavior are to a very large extent unconscious. And we humans are all equally familiar with these unconscious processes, such that when we discuss such processes, we all mutually agree to the same unconscious presumptions. One way to make processes explicit is to engage in the mental experiment of trying to conceive of what would be the programming modules, input data, and decision processes for a human-like robot. Thus, if we were programming C3PO, or HAL, to be capable of humiliation, what would be the programming architecture?

Contextual Studies
4) Full text studies of newspaper data base: The purpose is to identify contexts and the kinds of human events in which humiliation takes place. Tasks: a) Identify suitable accessible newspaper archives, either because they are a newspaper of record and are historically deep (e.g. New York Times, London Times, etc.), or because they present a corpus that typifies a particular culture (e.g., Japan Times), or because they present a corpus that typifies a particular social context (e.g. Wall Street Journal). b) Keyword search for “humiliation” and its cognates (e.g. “humiliate”, “humiliated”, “humiliating”, “humiliator”) and its synonyms and antonyms if known. c) Collect all articles in which the keywords appear, or if that is too extensive, sample the articles in some definable way. d) Create a descriptive tabulation of the story that is reported, including, for example, the kind of activity (e.g., family, sports, shopping, education, etc.), the descriptive characteristics of the humiliated persons (e.g.,age, gender, social role), the descriptive characteristics of the humiliator, if reported, the response of the humiliated persons to being humiliated, etc. The categories of the content analysis will probably be an evolving process, that will change after a first set of reports are examined. This type of corpus sampling and content analysis can be repeated for several different newspapers.

5) Full-text search of novels and screen-plays: The text of newspapers is largely factual, reporting real events. Many of the contexts discovered by a search of newspapers will be macro-level about nations being humiliated, or at the meso-level about humiliation of individuals in the contexts of institutions. But humiliation is also a micro-level phenomenon, at the individual and interpersonal level. A sample of those kinds of humiliation episodes might be discovered and the characteristics compiled based on a full-text survey of novels and screenplays. Authors of these kinds of stories are also keep observers of human events and human behaviors, and probably have insights on these phenomena.

6) Survey of humiliation experiences: In order to discover what kinds of events are salient in people’s minds when thinking of humiliation, and in order to determine if there are asymmetries in salience of being the humiliatee and being the humiliator, it would be useful to ask a wide variety of people, across ages and cultures two open-ended questions: 1) When was the last time you were humiliated? Please describe the event in your own words, omitting details that identify individuals or institutions. 2) When was the last time you humiliated someone? Please describe the event in your own words. From these kind of data, it will be possible to determine: a) social contexts in which humiliation events occur; b) the incidence of humiliation experiences; c) if there is an asymmetry in people being more aware of, and having more full recall of, being humiliated vs. being the humiliator.

27.12.2005, Floyd Webster Rudmin kindly added:
Good morning,
My proposals were written with our BA students in mind. They simply do not have advanced statistical skills. 

Also, fundamental to good psychometrics, prior to scales and correlations, are the constructs, and understanding these depends on semantics. Most theorists approach the semantics of contstructs via literature review, or via philosophical analysis, or via some common-sense fomulations. I prefer empirical approaches to semantics, since words have denotations that are not those of the dictionary and not those of the researcher, and all words have connotations that are not even listed in dictionaries.  Jump this to cross-cultural contexts and cross-language usages, and the problems compound. 

We are also in a psychometric transitions period. The basics of measurement were laid out by Fechner in the 1860s, and Thurstone in the 1920s operationalized these methods for attitude measures. The idea being that in measuring an attitude or other internal psychological state, the goal should be to find a threshhold value, such that below that you could say, on a scale of 1 to 100, person A has a humiliation level of 65, but person B has a humiliation level of 32.

Likert came along in 1932 (I got a copy of his dissertation at Columbia while I was there for the conference), and argued that we should forget about threshholds and just strive for consistency of responses. Then came along Cronbach to give a numerical razzle-dazzle alpha coefficient that we can be confident in our Likert measures. When historians of psychology in the year 2300 look back on our era (1950-2050), this will be called the Dark Ages of Psychology, because Likert and Cronbach between them made the psychometric plague that allows us to have a very confident and easy nonsense psychology. Anything can be measured, or rather we can now have confidence that we have measured anything we decide. "Fondness for Four" (ie, the liking of the number 4) probably has a significant correlation with "Itchiness of the Sole" (ie, awareness of wanting to scratch the bottom of the foot).

The transition is that item response theory and accompanying software now allow us to go back to proper Fechner-Thurstone measures. We are in the transition of the beginning of the cure of the psychometric plague. But it has been such a massive epidemic, and is so deeply institutionalized, that it will take 3 or 4 decades to cure psychology of it. 

In the meantime, we have to do the best we can. But we should at least be aware that we are ill as we carry on. And we should try not to infect the next generation of researchers.

10.01.2006, Jeff Victoroff, M.D. kindly responded:
Dear Dr. Rudmin,
What a lovely and insightful letter! Many thanks. I am, candidly, not a psychometrician. But I'm a died in the wool fan of empirical testing,in so far as possible, of popular psychological hypotheses. In part this is a response to the surreal experience of psychiatric training, in which otherwise intelligent life forms worshipped claims about human nature with no regard for falsifiable facts.

Please allow me to set aside for a moment the fact that measurement of psychological feelings with words and scales is itself a thorny issue. Let me set aside item response theory and Fechner/Thurstone vs. Likert/Cronbach. I understand your points. I agree that some measures do more than scale a phenomenon and actually distinguish between subjects that do or do not exhibit a trait. A threshold--where this makes biological or physical sense, as in the presence or absence of a photon or a heart--seems like a good idea. On the other hand, picking a threshold for normally distributed phenomena often seems to be an act of confabulation--such as the threshold between "normal" and "abnormal" height, weight, blood pressure, senile plaque density, IQ, or happiness.

But, setting all that aside, in regard to humiliation, I am unaware of ANY measure or scale. So it seems premature to debate whether the XYZ Humiliation scale is faithful to Thurstonian threshold ideals or bows to Likertian numerology. I'm just hoping for something more basic!

1. Speaking with some folks who have participated in political violence (and with other researchers who have done much more of this) it's my impression that a sense of having been humiliated, or of having had loved ones or ingroup members humiliated, is an important motivation for some behaviors that threaten world peace. To date, not one of the terrorism scholars making this connection has gone beyond an impressionistic non-random non-representative attribution along the lines of "Abu Goldstein told me he felt humiliated". Not even a preliminary survey of felt humiliation among victims of political oppression has, to my knowledge, ever been published. That's why I was hoping to find a self-rating instrument that's been plausibly shown to distinguish between folks who do and folks who do not feel humiliated. It is my understanding that no such self-rating instrument exists in any language.

2. I would also have to know what external validity such a scale has. This is a big problem because, in the absence of a pre-existing gold standard for felt humiliation, the best one could hope for would be to look at the literature on humiliation and propose that other measurable conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety) are signs of humiliation. But to "validate" a humiliation scale against depression or anxiety is to look for confirmation by reference to other psychological states which may be only vaguely related to felt humiliation. And to validate a humiliation measure by reference to measures of anger or aggression would be to assume the very hypothesis in question. So I would question what the best external validation process would be. In that regard, I see the value of your comments about semantics..So perhaps an early step must be to figure out whether humiliation is--in the minds of average folks--a unitary construct at all. And, if so, what defines it? And are those feelings or cognitions that define it measurable? IF SO--one could proceed with validation of a measure of it. (And I completely agree that cross-cultural work must be done to see if you a measuring the same thing if you ask different groups or, worse yet, translate the words).

3. One also must have a scale that goes beyond asking "how much humiliation do you feel" and asks "why?" That is, I'll get nowhere by measuring a felt humiliation among 1000 Palestinian teens if I just ask "how humiliated do you feel", since the result may only be documenting the impact of pimples. I need to know that my subjects feel humiliated BY THE ISRAELIS, if I'm to interpret this feeling as a possible cause (and hopefully modifiable factor) in this persistent conflict.

So, it is my understanding that we are at the very infant stages of this process.

Not to throw cold water on a wonderful idea, but it seems to me that, before doing a survey of "humiliation" (there was some correspondence from Alan Slifka about add-on questions in Prof. Ratner's work) we would need to agree on (a) what "humiliation" means (maybe item response theory helps with that?), (b) what measurable feelings/cognitions validate its presence, (c) what specific items on what kind of questionnaire best capture this construct, and (d) whether or not it is meaningful to consider this a phenomenon with a threshold (or, like depression, a phenomenon for which every scholar/clinician chooses their own arbitrary threshold) on our yet-to-be normed, validated, cross-culturally re-validated or published scale.

So, as eager as I am to see this vital notion incorporated into political psychology, I'm trying to figure out a rigorous and defensible way to do this. Does that sound correct to you?
Best regards,
Jeff Victoroff, M.A., M.D.

11.01.2006, Floyd Webster Rudmin kindly responded:
Good morning,
Thank you for the response. Your comment about psychiatry sparked a memory. When I was a doctoral student, during the Reagan administration, I was active in opposition to nuclear war. The local Physicians for Social Responsibility was dominated by the Medical School's Pediatric Psychiatry Department. They asked me to join them in a study of children's fears of nuclear war. They would have children draw pictures of their dreams, and if they showed mushroom clouds and exploding communities, then that would be evidence that the children had fear of nuclear war. If they did not show such catastrophic violence, then that would be evidence that the children had repressed their fear of nuclear war. I pointed out that they have not allowed the possibility that the children had no fear of nuclear war. They answered in puzzlement, "But who wouldn't be afraid of nuclear war?" I told them I was too busy to be involved in their project.

My comments about scales was written quickly in the context of a private discussion. I had not intended to have it as a complete account. My main point is that it is very, very easy to make bad psychometric measures. The common criterion for a "good" scale is that Cronbach alpha is over .80 of something like that.  I have been a critic of the psychometrics of acculturation research, and there in looking closely at studies, it is evident that PERFECTLY bad scales of acculturation, that in fact have no information about acculturation, can have good alpha coefficients. (I can send a pdf copy of my most recent critique of acculturation psychometrics to anyone who is interested.) A high alpha coefficient only means that the items have shared variance.  But all of the measurement artifacts (acquiescence, social desirability, etc.) also contribute to shared variance and contribute to elevating the alpha values. Also, the more items a scale has, then necessarily the higher goes the alpha coefficient.  Thus, 40 or 50 very bad items can result in a so-called "good" scale.

Another very common error is to use an odd number of response options, such that there is a neutral middle value, and as a consequence this neutral value gets different meanings. For example, imagine a four item scale of humiliation, with the usual 5 Likert response options of


a) "I first experienced humiliation as a child." b) "I feel humiliated when people show me disrespect." c) "Humiliation experiences make me feel vengeful." d) "I hate those who have humiliated my group."

Now imagine that subject #1 answered these four items with 3, 3, 3, 3 and subject #2 answered these four items with 5, 5, 1, 1.

Both are going to get a mean scale score of 3. For subject #1, the score of "3" means that he or she has no opinion about humiliation questions.  For subject #2, the score of "3" means that he or she has certainly experienced humiliation but has no anger or violent emotions arising from that. But SPSS does not know that "3" codes two different meanings. It just knows that people got the score of 3.

Now imagine that for the sample, that the mean scale scores were low, such that 3 is a high value for the respondents, and most of them were getting average scores of around 1 and 2. Which means that for this sample, humiliation is not a big deal.  When data like this gets crunched up in SPSS, then we might find that humiliation is strongly positively correlated with living in a war zone, and the study will conclude that war is causing humiliation or humiliation is causing war. But what the data in fact show is that most people in the war zone have no opinions about humiliation or no violent emotions about humiliation and that people in peace-zones have even lower levels of humiliation. But this kind of look inside the scales is never done.  We just get people to answer the items, feel confident in the measure because the alpha coefficient is adequate, and then we are ready to interpret correlations as causation.

I have not looked in detail at humiliation psychometrics, if there are any. But I have looked in detail at acculturation psychometrics, and they exhibit problems like this.

On serious topics, on applied topics, I believe it is unethical to do quick and dirty psychometric studies. My university in Norway has a new MA degree program in peace studies. We are having students come in from all different disciplines, and allowing them to do research using a different discipline's methods. So for example, an economics BA student might do an MA using anthropological methods, or visa-versa. With very, very little instructions on the methods they are using. I am very uncomfortable with this arrangement, because the students are going off to Bosnia, or Guatemala, or Israel and engaging themselves in understanding real conflict but using methods at the most naive and amateurish level. 

It is like someone saying, "I got this gene splicing machine, and I am going to make up some viruses, but I have never studied biology or genetics, so could someone quickly show me how this machine works so that I can get busy making viruses?"  It is dangerous to pretend to do science with methods we do not understand.  Research cannot be based on self-perceived good intentions only.  Research requires rigorous and careful use of skills, that require background knowledge and subsidiary skills, and these often take years to acquire. The greatest danger by far to this nascent field of humiliation studies is the self-perceived good intentions of those of us involved in this, such that we feel that our good intentions will make up for our lack of competence.

About threshhold. I use the word as in psychophysics, not as in diagnostics.  For example, when  our hearing is being measured by audiologists, they might say that your hearing threshhold is 30  decibels. That means that 30 is the lowest loudness that you can hear.  25, 20, 10, 5 decibels you cannot hear, and 35, 40 60 75 100 decibels you certainly can here. Your hearing level is 30 decibels. And if we are doing a study, we might find a correlation showing that the more cigarettes people smoke per day, or the higher people's blood pressure is, then the higher goes their hearing threshhold.

In a spelling test, if the words to be spelled are scaled by school grade, then someone getting a threshhold score of grade 5, means that they can spell the words for grades 1, 2, 3 and 4, and probably cannot spell the words for grades 6, 7, 8, and 9. Threshold means the level at which everything higher is heard, or scored inorrect, or answered as disagreement, and everything lower is not hear, or scored correct, or answered as agreement. 

We do not do that with our psychometrics in the Likert-Cronbach system.  Our questions are not graded such that we know which of them reflects a higher level of humiliation and which of them a lower level of humiliation. The idea in the Likert-Cronbach system is that all of the questions be about the same, essentially asking the same question in slightly different ways. Such that if you disagree with one question then you will more or less disagree with all of the others, and if you agree with one question, then you will more or less agree with all of the others. This results in high alpha coefficients, which reflect that all of the items are positively intercorrelated.

A well made Thurstone scale would only get high alpha coefficients for respondents with the highest extreme levels of the attitude, because they would then be able to agree to every item measuring attitudes weaker than that. But the reverse would not be true. People with low or moderate levels of attitude, would be disagreeing to the items that measure extreme attitudes, resulting in low alpha coefficients.

I would be skeptical about evaluating humiliation scales against measures of mental disorders. That seems to me to be proof that you are not measuring humiliation. Depression, for example, has biochemical and maybe genetic substrates to it. Humiliation seems necessarily to be contextual and cultural.  Depression can be decreased by medication.  Humiliation should not be decreasable by medication. The confound here I think is that both usually involve negative affect. But negative affect is not necessary to either one.  Some depressed people have muted affect, and many humiliated people have ways of coping with and disregarding the humiliation. Talk to racial minority people in any racist country (which is most countries). The humiliation experiences are so routine that it would be impossible to continue living without ways of discounting and coping with the experience as a non-arousing event.
One common method of validation used in personality scales, is to have one person fill out the questionnaire as a self-report and another intimate person (like a room-mate) fill out the form as an observer of the self-report person.  If the self-report and the observor-report show strong positive correlations, then that is evidence of validity.

The explanation of "why" would not be, and maybe cannot be, part of the measure of humiliation. You would need other measures to know if the humilitation was caused by bad complexion or by bad Israelis. So, if you had good measures of humiliation and good measures of contact with Israeli military, then you might find that Palestinians had moderately high levels of humiliation, and that the level of humiliation was positively correlated with contact with Israeli, suggesting that Israelis CAUSE the humiliation.  But maybe you find that Palestinian humiliation is unrelated to contact with how much contact there is with Israelis. Then you look for the alternative possibilities, and you find that indeed it is caused by the quality of the facial skin.

Your last points a, b, c, and d seem well articulated and accurate. No complaint here.  But item response theory cannot discover the meaning of humiliation.  What it does is allow the scaling of the questions, so that we would know that there are some questions that almost everyone would agree to (eg, "I have been humiliated at least once in my life.") and some questions which only people with the most extreme experience of humiliation could agree to (eg, "I was once stripped naked in the street and forced to eat my own feces while everyone laughed at me."). These are quick examples of the extreme low and extreme high items on a scale of humiliation.  But questions of more subtlety, or without obvious scale difference, can have their relative ranking scaled on a metric by item response theory. For example, items like "I feel humiliated if someone teases me in public" and "I feel humiliated if someone criticizes me in public."  Which of these is higher and which lower on a scale of humiliation. It is not obvious.  But item response analysis, based on examing the responses of actual respondents, would be able to determine that.

Item response analysis can also identify sub-classes of respondents. So it is possible, not only that there are different kinds of humiliation, or different aspects of humiliation, but also that there are different kinds of people vis-a-vis their reaction to humiliation, based on age, social class, personality, race, etc.
Bullying as a topic is a bit like humiliation, but with a long, long record of research on it. I supervised a student doing a study of bullying among Norwegian Army soldiers. 

Østvik, K., & Rudmin, F. (2001). Bullying and hazing among Norwegian Army soldiers: Two studies of prevalence, context, and cognition. Military Psychology, 13, 17-39.

We decided to let the respondents decide what is bullying or not, and to describe the experience. We then categorized the kinds of things that they claimed were bullying.

Maybe the bullying literature would be a good model for humiliation studies to follow, and to examine the bullying literature for mistakes not to make.  For example, bullying literature has for decades, to a very large extent, tried to link itself to psychiatric personality theory. That is, bullying was seen to be caused by the bully and/or the victim being unusual personalities, and the research task was to identify the victim personality profile and/or the bully personality profile. 
But that, we argued, is a useless approach, because personality by definition cannot be changed. If the theory and the research were both successful, than the most you could do would be to tell people in advance that they are likely to be a victim or a bully. And for trying to improve the situations, for example, in a school playground, then the theory only allows you to somehow get rid of people with those personality profiles. We rather focussed our research on contexts and cogntive processes. Contexts and thinking can be changed, for the better, if we knew what was correlating with bullying.  And we did that, with some specific recommendations. For example, we discovered that two-thirds of the bullying was taking place in the barracks where the soldiers sleep, and that it was usually done my roommates. So, arrange better supervision of barrack life, and make bedrooms singles or doubles, but not more than that, and thereby reduce opportunities of alliance of several against one.

We also found a confound in the semantics. Along with bullying, there is the objectively similar phenomenon of hazing. So, if you are an army recruit and find that some one has poured a bucket of water on your mattress, how do you know if you are being bullied or being hazed?  Both of these phenomena will entail events like water poured into your bed. So we tried to itemize the differences between these, based on a semantic analysis:  Bullying has no social sanction, tends to be done in private, happens to targeted individuals, may be done by a peer or someone inferior in age, rank or status, and has no natural termination point. Hazing is socially approved, tends to be done in public, happens to a cohort group, cannot be done by an inferior or a peer, and terminates with a ritual welcoming the hazed cohort into fellowship with the tormentors.

So, if the water were poured into my bed by superiors, and if this were done to everyone in my cohort, and if all of us were required to bring our wet mattresses out on to the public lawn for drying, and if the following week there was a party hosted by my tormentors, then I would know that the water in my mattress was hazing.  But if this were done by my peers, and it was only done to me, and they were secretive about it, and if this kind of thing went on and on and on, then I would know that I am being bullied.
Floyd Rudmin


Narrative Analysis of Intensive Interviews

9.2.2007, Diane Wolf kindly describes her narrative analysis approach:
Drawing on interviews with seventy Jewish men and women who, as children, were placed in non-Jewish families during the Nazi occupation of Holland, Diane L. Wolf paints a compelling portrait of Holocaust survivors whose experiences were often diametrically opposed to the experiences of those who suffered in concentration camps.  Although the war years were tolerable for most of these children, it was the end of the war that marked the beginning of a traumatic time, leading many of those interviewed to remark, "My war began after the war." This first in-depth examination of hidden children vividly brings to life their experiences before, during, and after hiding and analyzes the shifting identities, memories, and family dynamics that marked their lives from childhood through advanced age. The book is based on a narrative analysis of intensive interviews with 70 former hidden children now living in Holland, Israel and the US.  Through their memories, readers are able to view their subjectivities as children and then later growing up in a post-war, post-genocidal context, into adulthood and parenthood.  Although almost everyone experienced considerable trauma and still bears scars,  even if their parents survived (and sometimes moreso), the vast majority of those interviewed seem resilient and have managed  to create a meaningful life.
Wolf also uncovers anti-Semitism in the policies and practices of the Dutch state and the general population, which historically have been portrayed as relatively benevolent toward Jewish residents. The poignant family histories in /Beyond Anne Frank /demonstrate that we can understand the Holocaust more deeply by focusing on postwar lives. This study has implications for children and families who have suffered from war and genocide in the contemporary world as well as those who involved in adoption custody battles.

Please see also:
Jakob Lothe (2005)
Narrative, History, Fiction: The Example of the Holocaust
Lecture at the Opening of the 14th Year of the Centre for Advanced Study at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo, 6 September 2005.


This list is continuously expanding, please let us know, if you can contribute!



Successful message of change: Identifying the Positive Deviants
Jerry Sternin's job was to help save starving children in Vietnam. Faced with an impossible time frame, he adopted a radical approach to making change. His idea: Real change begins from the inside.

Field Analysis of Religion, Spirituality and Human Flourishing, by Robert A. Emmons
Metanexus Salus. 3,343 Words.
“An increasingly vigorous area of research is human virtue. The study of virtue, at the nexus of the psychology of religion, personality psychology, moral philosophy, and the psychology of emotion, is making a comeback in psychology. Partly responsible for this resurgence is the positive psychology movement which has sought to systematically classify human strengths and virtues into a comprehensive taxonomy. Concepts such as forgiveness, love, hope, humility, gratitude, self-control, and wisdom appear as highly prized human dispositions in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu thought and are affirmed universal principles in world philosophies and ethical systems. Basic research as well as interventions to cultivate these virtues is well underway. Yet there is much hard work that lies ahead.” ... Please read all at

Quantitative Models for Developmental Processes
Nesselroad, J. R., & Molenaar, P. C. M. (2003). Quantitative Models for Developmental Processes. In J. Valsiner & K. J. Connolly (Eds.), Handbook of Developmental Psychology (pp. 622-639). London: Sage Publications.

Dynamic Systems Approaches and Modeling of Developmental Processes
van Geert, P. (2003). Dynamic systems approaches and modeling of developmental processes. In J. Valsiner & K. J. Connolly (Eds.), Handbook of Developmental Psychology (pp. 640-672). London: Sage Publications.

The System Improvement Process
SIP was developed to solve any difficult large-scale social problem. This includes the "excessive humiliation problem." Systems Engineer Jack Harich invites all researchers to study SIP (in a personal message, 15th January 2013).