Semantic Differential Technique

The semantic differential measurement technique is a form of rating scale that is designed to identify the connotative meaning of objects, words, and concepts. The technique was created in the 1950s by psychologist Charles E. Osgood. The semantic differential technique measures an individual's unique, perceived meaning of an object, a word, or an individual.

Figure 1 Example of the semantic differential technique


The semantic differential can be thought of as a sequence of attitude scales. Using a 7-point bipolar rating scale, respondents are expected to rate an object. The 0 position typically means “neutral,” 1 means “slightly,” the 2 position means “quite,” and 3 is “extremely.” The scales are designed such that the left side is generally positive and the right is generally negative. This allows the ...

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