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Title Rating scales: Numeric values may change the meaning of scale labels
Source Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ), 55, 4, pp. 570-82
Year 1991
Access date 08.05.2013

Three experiments indicate that the numeric values provided as part of a rating scale may influence respondents' interpretation of the endpoint labels. In experiment 1, a representative sample of German adults rated their success in life along an 11-point rating scale, with the endpoints labeled “not at all successful” and “extremely successful.” When the numeric values ranged from 0 (“not at all successful”) to 10 (“extremely successful”), 34 percent of the respondents endorsed values between 0 and 5. However, only 13 percent endorsed formally equivalent values between −5 and 0, when the scale ranged from −5 (“not at all successful”) to +5 (“extremely successful”). Experiment 2 provided an extended conceptual replication of this finding, and experiment 3 demonstrates that recipients of a respondent's report draw different inferences from formally equivalent but numerically different values. In combination, the findings indicate that respondents use the numeric values to disambiguate the meaning of scale labels, resulting in different interpretations and, accordingly, different subjective scale anchors.

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Year of publication1991
Bibliographic typeJournal article
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Web survey bibliography (8390)