The top-down/bottom-up controversy from a constructionist approach. A method for measuring top-down effects applied to a sample of older people

Fabio Leonardi, Liana Spazzafumo, Fiorella Marcellini, Cristina Gagliardi

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Abstract

Two different theories, called bottom-up and top-down, were developed to understand the determinants of an individual's satisfaction. Experimental studies didn't provide unanimous results, and confirmed, to different extents, both theories. Aside from these classic theories, a constructionist approach was developed. The purposes of this study were to examine the top-down/bottom-up controversy from a constructionist point of view and to obtain a new method for measuring the top-down effects in different satisfaction judgements. In this approach, an individual's satisfaction is viewed as constructions, evoked by the specific question in its particular context, and made by people using cognitive strategies. This view implies that the correlation between satisfaction judgements may reflect the use of the same strategies, rather than a causal effect. From this point of view, the top-down and bottom-up effects, described by the classic theories, cannot be seen as a pattern of causal links among satisfaction domains; therefore we propose a reinterpretation of these concepts in which they refer to ways used by people to construct their satisfaction judgements. On these grounds, we developed a method to extract the weight of top-down effects from correlation coefficients between satisfaction judgements. Two hypotheses concerning the different weight of top-down processes in the different satisfaction judgements were subsequently developed. These propositions were tested using the data set of 'Outdoor Mobility Survey' which was carried out in Italy on a sample of 6000 people, 55-95 years of age, stratified by sex and age. We found different top-down effects in satisfaction judgements that confirm our hypothesis, even if some aspects need further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-216
Number of pages30
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Volume48
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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