# Semantic Differential Rating Scale

Suppose you are creating a questionnaire to conduct an investigation. How does one decide which response format to use? Many questionnaires use rating scales such as the Likert scale, where one has to indicate how much they agree with a statement (e.g., ‘I make new friends easily’) or on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). One example of how questionnaires measure responses are via semantic differential rating scales.

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• We will start by looking at the meaning of semantic differential rating scales.
• Then we will take a look at semantic differential rating scale examples.
• After, we will delve into the semantic differential rating scale uses.
• Finally, we will explore the semantic differential rating scale’s advantages and disadvantages.

## Meaning of Semantic Differential Scale

Semantic differential scales are also a type of rating scale. So let us examine what makes semantic differential scales different from other scales and when they are best used.

What do we mean by a semantic differential scale?

A semantic differential scale is a rating scale used in surveys or questionnaires that allows you to indicate how your feelings lie between opposing adjectives on a continuum.

Semantic differential scales do not measure attitudes directly like Likert scales but indirectly by asking you to rate the importance of a concept (such as a product or event) on a continuum.

Likert scales measure attitudes directly by asking a person to indicate the degree of agreement with a particular statement.

Semantic differential scales are based on connotative meanings; they measure what feelings you associate with a concept.

For example, the word school refers to a building or institution, but depending on your experiences and attitudes, the connotations may include feelings of comfort, frustration, support, or isolation.

Figure 1. Connotative meanings reflect our attitudes.

## Semantic Differential Scale Examples

The inventor of the semantic differential scale, Charles Egerton Osgood, distinguished three dimensions of attitudes:

1. Evaluation

2. Potency

3. Activity

Evaluation determines a person’s attitude, usually noting whether they view the subject positively or negatively.

An example response showing how the semantic differential scale evaluates social media includes adding five response options between opposite adjectives (positive-negative).

Fig. 1. Evaluation is used to measure the connotations of attitudes.

Measuring potency indicates how strong the issue we are dealing with is for that person. The highest and lowest points on the scales can indicate potency in terms of excitable to calm, for instance.

Fig. 2. Potency determines how strongly someone feels about something.

Activity indicates how ‘active’ the subject is; one example is one side of the scale indicating active and the opposite end indicating passive.

Fig. 3. measuring activity using semantic differential rating scales can be used to determine how often a consumer exercises after receiving a fitness product.

## Semantic Differential Scales Uses

Semantic difference scales can assess people’s attitudes towards a product.

For example, a new app that helps students learn. Researchers can measure how users evaluate the app (e.g., ‘Useful’–‘Useless’) and rate its potency (‘What impact did the app have on your revision?’, ‘Strong–Weak’).

Semantic differential scales can assess customer satisfaction.

For example, you can ask customers about their feelings about customer service (e.g., ‘How was the staff?’, ‘Helpful–Unhelpful) or the accuracy of the product they purchased (e.g., ‘Accurate–Inaccurate’).

They can also be used to rate your personality traits.

For example, extraversion could be rated based on responses to the statement’ Spending time with large groups of people is:’ on a scale from ‘Exhausting’ to ‘Energising’.

The semantic differential scale advantages are:

• The semantic differential scale is easy to administer and understandable to respondents.
• Since there are several options between the semantic extremes, respondents can give answers that accurately reflect their feelings and attitudes.
• Responses are intuitive and based on participants’ subjective feelings but still result in quantitative data that can then be analysed and summarised to understand people’s attitudes.
• Semantic differential scales are generally considered valid and reliable.

• Designing appropriate semantic differential scales can be challenging because deciding which adjectives are most appropriate for assessing the concept and which concepts are important to the study is tedious.

• The researcher must also decide how many options to include between the two opposing adjectives. Too many options can reduce accuracy, but too few options can reduce the sensitivity of the measurement.

• Another problem with semantic differential scales is that participants sometimes find it difficult to rank their views on the continuum and tend to tick only the extreme values.

This is known as extreme response bias.

• Semantic differential scales measure subjective attitudes; ticking the same point on a continuum between adjectives may mean different things to different people.

• Social desirability bias may influence participants’ responses when measuring socially sensitive concepts such as undesirable behaviour (cheating or stealing) or undesirable views (prejudice).

Social desirability refers to the tendency to respond according to what is desirable rather than our actual attitudes.

## Semantic Differential Rating Scale - Key takeaways

• The meaning of semantic differential scale is a rating scale used in questionnaires to indirectly assess respondents’ attitudes by examining their associations with concepts.
• Semantic differential scales require you to rate a concept between two opposite adjectives on a scale.
• The semantic differential scales advantages are that they are valid and reliable, easy to understand, and accurately reflect respondents’ subjective feelings.
• Researchers must decide which concepts to study, which adjectives to use, and how many appropriate response options are needed.
• The disadvantage of the semantic differential scale is that they can be susceptible to response biases, such as extreme responses or social desirability.

#### Flashcards inSemantic Differential Rating Scale 25

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What is the semantic differential scale?

The meaning of semantic differential scale is a rating scale used in questionnaires to indirectly assess respondents’ attitudes by examining their associations with concepts.

What are the advantages of semantic differential scale?

The semantic differential scales advantages are that they are valid and reliable, easy to understand, and accurately reflect respondents’ subjective feelings.

What are the disadvantages of semantic differential scale?

The semantic differential scale disadvantages are a good design of semantic differential scales can be challenging, and they can be prone to response bias like extreme responding or social desirability bias.

What is semantic differential scale examples?

Semantic differential scales require you to rate a concept between two opposite adjectives on a scale. For example, rate your feelings about social media between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘harmful’ and ‘beneficial’.

What is the difference between Likert scales and semantic differential?

Likert scales and semantic differential scales can both be used to measure attitudes. However, Likert scales measure attitudes directly by measuring your degree of agreement with a statement, while semantic differential scales measure attitudes indirectly by assessing the connotations of a concept.

## Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

What dimension of attitudes do opposite adjectives ‘strong–weak’ represent?

What dimension of attitudes do the two opposite adjectives active-passive represent?

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