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Survey respondents are routinely asked to answer batteries of questions employing the same response scale. For example, in an effort to understand consumer preferences, respondents might be asked to rate several products on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “very poor” to 5 being “very good.” Nondifferentiation (sometimes called “straight-lining”) occurs when respondents fail to differentiate between the items with their answers by giving identical (or nearly identical) responses to all items using the same response scale. That is, some respondents might give a rating of 2 to all products, producing nondifferentiated answers.

In the survey literature, nondifferentiation is identified as a very strong form of satisficing. According to the notion of satisficing, when respondents are unable to or unwilling to carefully go ...

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