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Lost Letter Technique

Definition

The lost letter technique is used to measure people's attitudes by dropping stamped letters addressed to various organizations in public areas and then recording how many of the letters are returned via the mail. It is assumed that people will be more likely to return a letter if it is addressed to an organization that they support than if it is addressed to an organization they do not support. For example, a Democrat who finds a lost letter should be more likely to mail it when it is addressed to a Democratic candidate's headquarters than to a Republican candidate's headquarters.

History and Modern Usage

In one of the first studies to use the lost letter technique, Stanley Milgram and his colleagues dropped stamped letters in a ...

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