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In recent years, social scientists at our universities and research people associated with both public and private organizations have given increasing attention, to the use of the panel method of repeated interviewing in carrying on their research. Briefly, the panel method involves recruiting a sample of individuals representing the universe to be studied and interviewing these people at two or more different points in time on the problems under consideration. The method has been most frequently employed to study trends in consumer brand preferences, listening and reading habits, and in some cases, to collect data on opinions and attitudes. Considerably less attention has been given to the applications of the technique to the study of short-term changes in attitude and behavior patterns for which panel studies are particularly suited. The following remarks are designed to call attention to some of the recent developments in the application of the panel process to investigating and understanding the phenomena of change. Among the questions relevant to studies of social change, whether undertaken by the social scientist, the business man or the civil servant, are three which are perhaps of primary importance: 1. What was the effect of a stimulus, in producing change? 2. What are the conditions which produce differential changes in attitudes or behavior among various groups in a population? 3. What is the mutual interaction between attitudes or behavior patterns which occur simultanepusly? The panel method, because of the special modes of analysis it permits, can provide answers to these questions; answers not readily obtainable from cross-sectional polls. The first attribute of panel analysis important in this respect is that it enables the analyst to identify individual changers objectively. If it develops that a respondent reports an attitude or habit, which differs from that reported in a previous interview, then he is a “changer” and can be studied as such. Cross-sectional polls must rely on the respondent's memory to identify him as a “changer.”
Glock, Charles Y.
Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University, New York, N. Y.