Stouffer, Samuel

Stouffer, Samuel (Andrew)

(1900–60) sociologist; born in Sac City, Iowa. A Harvard M.A. in literature, he earned a University of Chicago Ph.D. (1930) after several years of managing a family newspaper. He taught at the Universities of Wisconsin and Chicago and was the first director of Harvard's Laboratory of Social Relations (1946–60). A specialist in public opinion research who promoted quantitative research methods—he introduced the use of "sample surveys"—he became the leading sociologist of his generation. He directed or made major contributions to the Social Science Research Council's research on social aspects of the Depression (1930s), a Carnegie Commission study of African-Americans (1940), and a Ford Foundation study of public attitudes toward communism (1955). Under his leadership, the War Department's wartime research on soldiers (1941–46) yielded the classic Studies in Social Psychology in World War II (4 vols. 1949–50); this work led to the key theories of "relative deprivation" and "reference groups." Although insisting on quantified data, he believed in applying the knowledge to solving social problems.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.