Bias and Changes in Perceived Intensity of Verbal Qualifiers Effected by Scale Orientation

Joeri Hofmans, Peter Theuns, Sven Baekelandt, Olivier Mairesse, Niels Schillewaert, Walentina Cools


The objective of this study is to examine whether manipulating the orientation of a rating
scale impacts on the perceived intensity of the verbal qualifiers. An experiment is designed to
assess the perception of intensities of verbal qualifiers in an agreement scale. A first finding
is that participants seem to adopt one of two response strategies. Those who show the ’extreme
null-point strategy’ report perceived intensities that monotonically increase along with
the scale from ’fully disagree’ to ’fully agree’. However, other respondents seem to adopt a
’middle null-point strategy’, where the highest perceived intensity coincides with both extreme
qualifiers of the scale and the lowest intensity is experienced for qualifiers near the middle.
An orientation effect is supported for the ’extreme null-point strategy’ group, and manifests
itself in less agreement about the intensity of the qualifiers when placed on a decremental scale
(e.g. fully agree - rather agree - neutral - rather disagree - fully disagree) as opposed to an
incremental scale (e.g. fully disagree - rather disagree - neutral - rather agree - fully agree).
Next, the existence of a primacy-effect, an orientation effect found in previous research, was
tested by means of a web survey-experiment and is rejected in favour of a more differentiated


Category rating scales; orientation effects; primacy effect; cross-modality matching

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