Likert, Rensis, 1903-1981

Alternative names
Birth 1903-08-05
Death 1981-09-03

Biographical notes:

Social scientist, director of the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan.

From the description of Rensis Likert papers, 1929-1983. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34421233

Rensis Likert was born August 5, 1903 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He received his B.A. in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1926, and his Ph.D. in social psychology from Columbia University in 1932. At Columbia, Likert worked under Gardner Murphy and first did work in measuring attitudes. After a period as an instructor of psychology and later assistant professor at New York University, Likert became director of research for the Life Insurance Agency Management Association of Hartford, Connecticut, working in this capacity from December 1935 to September 1939.

In September 1939, following a reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Likert was selected to administer the Division of Program Surveys in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), serving from 1939 to October 1946. His overall responsibility was the development of more scientific opinion surveys, and in this capacity, he and his staff conducted interviews which were at first concerned with problems of agricultural production and management, but which broadened out with World War II into studies of citizen morale and problems of the home front. While with BAE, Likert also conducted specialized surveys for the Office of War Information (OWI), the U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Board. He also served during the latter stages of World War II as director of the Morale Division of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, serving from November 1944 to June 1946.

With the conclusion of the war and a decline in government support, Likert began looking for a university setting where he and his staff could continue to do their research and conduct surveys on theoretical and social problems. The University of Michigan was selected, and on July 1, 1946, the Survey Research Center was established. In 1948 the Research Center for Group Dynamics left M.I.T. to join the University of Michigan. The combined organization became known as the Institute for Social Research (ISR). Likert served as director of the Survey Research Center from its founding in 1946 until he assumed the directorship of the new Institute for Social Research. He remained as director of ISR until his retirement in 1970.

In 1971, Likert formed a private consulting firm, Rensis Likert Associates, Inc. (RLA). The firm located its headquarters in Ann Arbor and established regional offices across the nation. RLA studied management styles and management systems in conjunction with survey research. The success of the firm stemmed from its utilization of Likert's Systems 1-4, which recognized and identified patterns of management, aiding businesses in achieving the most beneficial system of management.

From the guide to the Rensis Likert papers, 1929-1983, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Social sciences--Research
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Agriculture
  • Agriculture--United States
  • Oral History
  • Strikes and lockouts
  • Survey research
  • African Americans
  • Social surveys
  • Strikes and lockouts--Rubber industry--Ohio
  • War damage--Japan


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  • Detroit (Mich.) (as recorded)
  • Japan. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Detroit (Mich.) (as recorded)