An experimental study of Koehler''s thesis that the value of a thing or event depends upon its relationship to the total phenomenal context: a study of the value of the loss of a leg



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The present study is concerned with testing and amplifying Koehler's (1938) theory of value. The basic proposition in the theory is that the value of a thing or an event depends upon the context in which it appears. The method used consisted of having the subjects rate different things and events from the standpoints of the protagonists in three stories which they read. Seventy-five students from introductory psychology classes served as subjects during two group testing periods. Hypotheses Hypothesis I. The value of the loss of a leg depends upon the context in which it appears and the nature of its relationship to that context. The results for hypothesis I agreed with the predictions. It was expected that the rating of the loss would correspond to its different effects in the three stories. Hypothesis II. The value of 'help' depends upon the nature of that help and its results. Five thousand dollar 'help' should vary in value according to its source and the manner in which it was received. The expected order of acceptability was: an insurance claim paid on behalf of the man causing the wound leading to the loss of the leg; an anonymous gift from 'a friend;' a gift, known only to the recipient, from a friend; a gift, known to all the recipient's friends, from a friend. Results were only partially supportive, since the anonymous gift fell below the private gift from a friend. Hypothesis III. The subjects' ratings of the liking of sympathy by the protagonists should be related to the ratings of fortune. When ratings of fortune drop, the ratings of sympathy should rise. Results supported the prediction. Hypothesis IV. It was predicted that the rated value of understanding would increase when the protagonist's fortunes decreased. The results did not support the hypothesis. Hypothesis V. It was predicted that the value of 'looks' would increase most markedly at the time of the occurrence of the loss of the leg in the one story where the protagonist was a bachelor male (all three protagonists were males). Findings did not support the hypothesis. Hypothesis VI. It was predicted that the value of obligations for the protagonist would rise and fall as his fortunes rose and fell. The hypothesis was only partially supported and had to be rejected. Hypothesis VII. It was expected that there would be a negative relationship or correlation between the fortunes of the protagonists and the importance of opportunities, once the effects of frequency of opportunity were partialled out. The results were interpreted as offering tentative support for the hypothesis although no tests of statistical significance were possible. Conclusions. The value of an event depends upon the nature of the relationship of that event to the perceived context in which it occurs. Help, the loss of a leg, sympathy or opportunities are not static qualities toward which individuals have fixed attitudes, but are evaluated according to the extent they are seen as positively or negatively required in certain contexts. The contingent, relational character of value may be conceptualized in terms of the open system, a theory embodied in Koehler's theory of value. The method of having the subject rate events in a story from the standpoint of the protagonist appears workable and promising.



Amputees--Psychology, Values