Schwarz, Norbert; Knäuper, Barbel; Hippler, Hans-J.; Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth; Clark, Leslie
December 1991
Public Opinion Quarterly;Winter91, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p570
Academic Journal
The article reports that three experiments have shown that the numeric values provided as part of a rating scale may influence public opinion poll respondents' interpretation of the endpoint labels. Rating scales with labeled endpoints are probably the most widely used measurement instrument in social and psychological research. Leaving some concerns about their psychometric properties aside, the use of these scales does not seem to be very controversial for a careful discussion of their general properties and for empirical and psychological justifications for their use. In general, scales seem to be best in terms of reliability, percentage of undecided respondents, and respondents' ability to discriminate between the scale values. Thus, seven plus or minus two is the usual recommendation. Moreover, respondents are able to use rating scales consistently, even in telephone interviews without visual aids. Whereas the number of scale points, the inclusion or omission of a neutral point, and the choice of scale labels have received considerable attention in the literature, the specific numeric values provided have, to our knowledge, not been the topic of theoretical analysis and empirical investigation. The findings may reflect either that respondents hesitated to assign themselves a negative score with regard to their success in life or that the numeric values provided on the scale influenced respondents' interpretation of the endpoint labels.


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