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Social Processes: Methodology · Types of test

The Heimler Scale of Social Functioning (HSSF) is a questionnare developed by Eugene Heimler and is a unique tool in that it covers a wide area of an individual's life experience, encouraging him to see himself in his societal setting. It was initially developed in the 1960s and has been widely used in a variety of contexts. It sets out, through a series of 55 questions, (most of them answered by a simple "Yes", "No", or "Perhaps") a pattern of energies in terms of "Satisfactions" and "Frustrations". It also puts these alongside an overall (existential) life view – Outlook. Satisfactions are set out in 25 questions under five headings: "Work", "Finance", "Friends", "Family (past & present)", and "Personal". These are set alongside Frustrations where there are also five areas, each with a sub-set of five questions: "Activity", "Health", "Influences", "Moods", and "Escape Routes". The final section, the Outlook, has five questions, which are answered in terms of a scale response.

While recognising its diagnostic capabilities, Heimler used the scale primarily as an aid to counselling. From early in its development, researchers have shown it to be an extremely sophisticated diagnostic instrument. The balance of Satisfactions to Frustrations provides an accurate picture of how well a person feels the he or she is coping, what help, if any, they may require, and likely outcomes. These energy balances vary according to how life is being experienced at the time of filling in the questionnaire. How these energies are distributed allows for a deeper analysis and therapeutic use of the scale. More recently, through research studies, it has also come to light that definite themes emerge among different groups of people. For instance those in the caring professions are likely to be more questioning and flexible in their life approach than top managers in industry, and very high achievers in sport have greater frustration than those whom they beat.[1][2] Administration of the Scale is a simple matter and takes about 15–20 minutes to complete: scoring the questionnaire allows for an immediate diagnosis of support needs. A deeper analysis of the answers can be deduced in a comparatively short space of time compared with what would otherwise take hours of interviewing. The discipline of this analysis takes time and patience to acquire – that of understanding a person's world from within and seeing the logic of that world. Once acquired it is an invaluable aid to genuine understanding and sensitive response.


Criticism has largely centred around the lack of availability of the HSSF for peer review. The copyright that was meant to protect it from abuse in the hands of non-practitioners had the effect of removing it from the critical analysis of those who use psychometric tools. Despite considerable interest and research in its earlier years, this restrictive copyright has continued to prevent appropriate scrutiny. The Eugene Heimler Literary Trust (EHLT) has now accepted this and is taking steps, albeit belatedly to permit the scale to be disseminated more widely for the purpose of such examination. Another area for concern has been the response range to the questions: "Yes", "Perhaps" and "No" have been thought to be too limited and it has been suggested that a Likert scale with a range between 1 and 5 might give more accurate results. Van Breda, a moderate critic of the HSSF, attempted to test this out, using a large number of scales, but found that similar results were obtained when the original scale and the Likert scale were used.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. Coleman, J.A. (1980), Personality and stress in the shooting sports, Journal for Psychosomatic Research, 24, 286-296
  2. Jones, E.S. (2008), Use of the Heimler Scale of Social Functioning within the context of the Edinburgh International Health Centre, unpublished thesis for MPhil, University of Wales at Bangor
  3. Van Breda, A.D. (2003), Enhancing an instrument's measurement properties through extending its response range, unpublished document for the Military Psychological Institute of the South African National Defence Force.

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