Alienation Scale

Pearlin, L. I. (1962). Alienation from work: A study of nursing personnel. American Sociological Review 4:466–79.

Comments: Although the original study was conducted in a mental hospital, the four-item questionnaire has recently been used in educational settings (urban and suburban school districts and universities). The instrument was designed to examine alienation in a bureaucratic setting. Alienation is defined as “a feeling of powerlessness over one’s own affairs—a sense that the things that importantly affect one’s activities and work are outside his control.” Therefore, the relationships among responsibility, authority, and alienation were explored.

Sample: The original sample consisted of 1,138 nursing assistants, charge attendants, and registered nurses in a large mental hospital near Washington, D.C.

Reliability: A coefficient of reproducibility of 0.91 is reported for the four-item Guttman scale.

Data Analysis: Alienation is studied in terms of positional distance and status obeisance. A four-item Guttman scale assessing obeisance is included.


Benson, N., and Malone, P. (1987). Teachers’ beliefs about shared decision making and work alienation. Education 107:244–51.

Knoop, R. (1986). Causes of alienation among university professors. Perceptual and Motor Skills 63:677–78.

Pearlin, L. I., and Kohn, M. L. (1966). Social class, occupation and parental values: A cross-national study. American Sociological Review 4:466–79.

Alienation Scale

  1. How often do you do things in your work that you wouldn’t do if it were up to you? Never Once in a while  Fairly often        Very often
  2. Around here it’s not important how much you know; it’s who you know that really Agree Disagree
  3. How much say or influence do people like you have on the way the hospital is run? A lot Some          Very little         None
  4. How often do you tell (your superior) your own ideas about things you might do in your work?

Never    Once in a while    Fairly often    Very often


Scoring: The alienative answers are italicized.