The Failing Measurements of Attitudes: How Semantic Determinants of Individual Survey Responses Replace Measures of Attitude Strength

Poster presentation at the 28th APS Annual Convention in Chicago,IL

Posted: 6 Jan 2019

See all articles by Kai R. Larsen

Kai R. Larsen

Leeds School of Business; Information Systems Group; Gallup

Jan Ketil Arnulf

BI Norwegian Business School

Oyvind Martinsen

University of Colorado at Boulder

Date Written: May 26-29, 2016

Abstract

The traditional understanding of data from Likert scales is that the quantifications involved are resulting from measures of attitude strength. Building on our recently proposed a semantic theory of survey response (STSR), we claim that survey responses tap two different sources; a mixture of attitudes plus the semantic structure of the survey. Exploring the degree to which individual responses are influenced by semantics we hypothesize that information about attitude strength is actually filtered out as noise in the commonly used correlation matrix. Applying a linguistic algorithm termed MI, we separated semantics from attitude strength in four samples of altogether 7781 respondents covering 8187 pairs of items. The surveys spanned commonly used organizational behavior surveys on leadership and motivation, as well as a short 5-factor personality inventory, the NEO-FFI. As hypothesized, the findings indicate that levels of attitude strength did not contribute uniquely to the correlation matrices except for in the NEO. This is contradictive to the prevalent understanding of what survey data represent. This problem has been overlooked, possibly contributing to reduced predictive value from research relying on Likert scale data.

Keywords: Semantic analysis, Surveys, survey responses, semantic theory of survey response (STSR), attitude strength

Suggested Citation

Larsen, Kai R. and Arnulf, Jan Ketil and Martinsen, Oyvind, The Failing Measurements of Attitudes: How Semantic Determinants of Individual Survey Responses Replace Measures of Attitude Strength (May 26-29, 2016). Poster presentation at the 28th APS Annual Convention in Chicago,IL. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3300368

Kai R. Larsen (Contact Author)

Leeds School of Business; Information Systems Group ( email )

995 Regent Dr.
Boulder, CO 80309-0419
United States

Gallup ( email )

901 F St NW
Washington, DC 20004
United States

Jan Ketil Arnulf

BI Norwegian Business School ( email )

Nydalsveien 37
Oslo, 0442
Norway

Oyvind Martinsen

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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