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How Scale Direction Impacts Survey Responses

October 9, 2023

How does scale direction – positive-to-negative or vice versa – affect survey responses? A recent eye-tracking study published in Survey Practice, Which Scale Direction is More Difficult for Respondents to Use? An Eye-tracking Study, addresses this question by peering into the survey response process.

Led by Ting Yan, PhD, a Vice President and Associate Director in Westat’s Survey Methods Group, the research examined two specific scale types: satisfaction and frequency. Findings reveal how scale direction can drive differences in respondent attention and effort. The study highlights optimal scale orientation and points to broader principles for reducing cognitive burden in questionnaire design. It also demonstrates eye-tracking’s potential for pinpointing cognitive trouble spots when answering surveys.


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