Interview with Sociologist Howard F. Taylor
                     Professor of Sociology
                      Princeton University             
                       by Kristin Forster

Forster:  Which sociological tradition do you find yourself most in
alignment with?

Taylor:  To the extent that "empiricist" (cf. quantitative) versus
"humanist" (cf.  qualitative, though not necessarily) identifies
one "tradition" in sociology, I would identify myself with the
empiricist side without much question.  My work tends to be
quantitative; I have published quantitative works in the sociology
of education and testing; social psychology; and race and ethnic

Forster:  Which sociological tradition do you find yourself
disagreeing with?

Taylor:  I am not in vigorous disagreement with any particular
tradition.  They all have something to contribute.  I suppose
though that I might take issue with a vehement "humanist" if that
person were overzealous about that particular tradition and thought
of it as the "only" way.

Forster:  As you know, sociology is still in its infancy as a
science.  What fields in sociology do you feel hold the most

Taylor:  In my estimation, those subfields in sociology holding the
most promise are (but not limited to):  stratification; urban
sociology; the study of poverty; social psychology; policy
research; and race and ethnic relations.  The criteria for making
this judgement are:  theoretical significance; policy significance;
and accumulation of scientifically useful knowledge.

Forster:  What fields hold the least promise?

Taylor:  That is difficult to say.  They all hold at least some
measure of promise.

Forster:  Name some sociologists that you admire?  

Taylor:  George Homans; James Davis; W.E.B. DeBois; Hubert M.
Blalock; all not necessarily in that order.

Forster:  What do you feel has been your greatest contribution to
the field of sociology?

Taylor:  Two:  1) My book entitled The IQ Game (a methodological
critique of hereditarian accounts of intelligence); and 2) my
survey study, The Black Elite Network in America, currently in the
write-up stage.

Forster:  In the 1990's and the 21st century, what are some of the
key problems that sociologists must confront in further
establishing their discipline?

Taylor:  This is the big question.  There are many such problems. 
Some important examples:  Family structure and persistence;
minority relations; black-white relations in particular; racism;
prejudice; gender relation; sexism; social mobility; stratification
and the entire problem of social differentiation; urban issues and
problems; the (declining) importance of sociological theory and its
connection to these problems; the role of the conceptualization of
culture; and the connections between social research and social

Forster:  In teaching students the subjects of sociology, what are
some misconceptions about individuals and society that you would
like to clear up?

Taylor:  Some of the common misconceptions -- such as those of
students -- are (for example):  use of gender stereotypes; use of
racial and ethnic stereotypes; the use of what Khaneman and Tversky
call "heuristics" (mental shortcuts that individuals take when
evaluating someone or something; a stereotype is one such type of
heuristic); the lack of effect of social class (effect is far more
pronounced); and the student under-estimation of the profound
effects of such matters as gender, race, and inequality in our

Forster:  Sociology books are not generally popular and a number of
them turn out to be dated shortly after they are published.  If you
had to choose four to five sociological related works (books or
articles) which would they be?  

Taylor:  A tough question, because the important contributions of
sociology lie within the subfields rather than in a few highly
influential works in those fields.  But I'll try.

     Homans - The Human Group (a long time ago:  1950);
     Blalock - many of his works in methodology, race relations,
     and his now classic statistics text;
     Jencks et. al. - Inequality;
     And:  subfields/approaches:

          Multilevel analysis and contextual analysis;
          Recent developments in multivariate analysis (General
          Linear Model and deprivations and applications); 
          Work of Bill Wilson and others on poverty;
          Network analysis.

Forster:  What advice would you give to a student entering a career
in sociology?
Taylor:  I would give a student two strong bits of advice:

     1)  Become firmly grounded in research methods and in
     statistics; and
     2)  Learn the core subfields of sociology (stratification;
     inequality; race and ethnic relations; gender; urban
     sociology; social psychology; some theory; and formal
     organizations; sociology of culture.)

Forster:  Why did you choose sociology?

Taylor:  Several reasons:  I became intrigued, as an undergraduate,
with the idea that you could actually do research on groups and on
individuals as social beings; I liked statistical analysis; I had
a strong social-worker orientation to life, which I attribute to my
mother (I attribute my more quantitative research interests to my
father); I was perplexed as to why Black Americans (of which I am
one) are so oppressed in America, and the consequences of this
oppression; and the idea that much of sociological phenomena can be
analyzed by asking "What is related to what with something else
constant" fascinated the hell out of me.

Forster:  Is there any accurate test of intelligence used today?

Taylor:  Nothing that is all that accurate.  I have argued that
achievement tests are more valid that ability tests (intelligence
tests included), but even their validity is limited; such tests are
really not valid (certainly with regard to predictive validity) on
women as on men, or on U.S. minorities (esp. Blacks and Hispanics)
as upon whites.  Finally, intelligence is quite multidimensional
(there are many types of intelligences) and no single "test" can
capture enough of this multidimensionality.  (See H.F. Taylor's
article, "intelligence," in the just-published Encyclopedia of
Sociology, eds. E.F. Borgatta and M. Borgatta; Macmillan

Forster:  If you were stranded on a desert island which books would
you take?  (not necessarily a sociology book)

Taylor:  Certainly not any sociology books.  I would take (for

     The Last Whole Earth Catalogue;
     The Encyclopedia Britannica, all vols., latest edition;
     No Novels;
     and all the Time magazines and New York Times magazines that
     I can carry!

Forster:  If you were to interview yourself, what question would
you most like to answer?  Ask that question now and answer it if
you would like.

Taylor:  My question would be:  What do you see as the major
contributions of all time in sociology to knowledge?  Answer: 
Again, a tough question.  I will have to abbreviate my answer.  But
sociology does have to face up to this ultimate question.  What has
sociology taught civilization?  What does sociology know that
nonsociology humans do not already know?  How does sociology
compare to the other social sciences in the production of knowledge
as well as to the solutions to problems (economics; political
science; anthropology; psychology; history)?  How does this compare
to physics?  To Chemistry?
     The major contributions it seems to me have (again) been made
via the subfields of sociology.  I see the major contributions as
being, for example: 
     *  The systematic codification of the effects of social class,
     and its, and its measurement (the field of social

     *  The systematic codification of the effects of social
     structure and culture on individual attitudes and attitude
     formation, as well as attitude change (social psychology);

     *  The "discovery" of the tremendous power of the effects of: 
     race; the effects of gender; and the importance of the
     operation of social structural variables (such as race and
     gender) on determining the life chances of humans; on
     determining the probability of whether they live or die; and
     so on.

     *  The re-focusing of interest in causation away from the
     individual mind (due to the influence of psychology) and on to
     the examination, and codification, of the effects of social
     structure and culture.

     *  Finally:  Among sociology's most significant contributions
     to overall knowledge lie in methodological advances:  polling;
     advances in survey methodology and sampling and sampling
     theory; the assessment of measurable error; and advances in
     the sociological use of certain multivariate analysis


     Howard F. Taylor
     Professor of Sociology
     2-N-1 Green Hall
     Department of Sociology
     Princeton University
     Princeton, New Jersey 08544

    Howard F. Taylor received his A.B. in Sociology at Hiram
College in 1961 (Phi Beta Kappa).  He later earned his M.A. at Yale
University in 1964.  Then in 1966, Taylor achieved a Ph.D. in the
area of sociology, also at Yale University.
In 1965, Taylor became Research Associate, in The Department of
Sociology at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  Later, in 1966
he took the position of Assistant Professor of Sociology also at
Illinois Institute of Technology.  He remained in Chicago at the
Illinois Institute of Technology until 1968, when he took a job at
Syracuse University as Associate Professor.  In 1973 until 1988, he
was Director of Afro-American Studies Program at Princeton
University.  Howard Taylor is presently Professor and Associate
Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.    
Howard Taylor's specialties include Social Psychology, Research
Methodology, Race and Ethnicity, and Afro-American Studies.  In
these areas he has written many books.  Howard Taylor is author of
The IQ Game: A Methodological Inquiry into the Heredity-Environment
Controversy and Balance in Small Groups.  One of his most recent
books is called, The Black Elite Network in America.  This is still
in preparation but is expected to be completed in December 1992. 
Also, under contract and in preparation is, Sociology:
Understanding Diversity in American Society. 
In addition to his books, Howard Taylor has written many articles,
reports, and chapters.  He has given numerous lectures and 
addresses for various Universities across the United States.  In
addition, Taylor has received various honors, awards and grants. He
has taught courses in Small Groups, Social Psychology, Individual
and Society, Research Methods, Statistics, Survey Research, and
General Sociology.