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Semantic Differential Scaling

Pioneered by Charles Osgood in 1952, semantic differential scales are a popular technique for measuring people’s attitudes toward nearly anything. Semantic differential scales use a standardized set of bipolar adjectives (see Figure 1) on which research participants rate an issue or object. This simple procedure confers a variety of benefits, both for researchers and study participants.

Through a series of statistical analyses, Osgood identified three recurring, stable dimensions on which people can judge nearly anything (see Table 1): (a) evaluative, focused on the value of the object (e.g., good/bad); (2) potency or power of an object (e.g., strong/weak); and (3) activity or movement of an object (e.g., slow/fast). To use a semantic differential scale, research participants respond to several bipolar adjectives designed to measure each dimension ...

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