Semantic differential scale

The semantic differential scale technique was originated by Osgood, Suci and Tannenbaum.2 The originators of the technique discovered that the perceived meaning of a variety of words and concepts could be decomposed in terms of three components: potency, activity and evaluation. In marketing research, the semantic differential is often used to measure attitudes towards the imagery surrounding products and services. In general, only the evaluative (e.g. good/bad) component is measured.

The scale consists of a number of bipolar adjectival phrases and statements that could be used to describe the objectives being evaluated. In the original work of Osgood et al., only single-word bipolar adjectives, not phrases, were used. However, common practice in marketing research applications is to use adjectival

We would like you to let us know what you think about our restaurant. Below are a number of statements that could be used to describe what we offer. For each pair of adjectival phrases we would like you to mark the category that best describes your feelings about us.

Old-fashioned Expensive Friendly service Helpful staff Limited range of menus Inviting atmosphere Fast service Unattractive decor Convenient opening hours

Modern Cheap

Unfriendly service Unhelpful staff Wide range of menus Cold atmosphere Slow service Attractive decor Inconvenient opening hours

FIGURE 6.4

Semantic differential phrases as well. An example is shown in Figure 6.4. Each bipolar adjective rating scale consists of seven categories, with neither numerical labels nor category descriptions other than for the anchor categories. To remove any position bias, favourable and unfavourable adjectival phrases are randomly distributed to the left-hand and right-hand anchor positions. The respondent is asked to mark one of the seven categories that best describes their views about the object along the continuum implied by the bipolar object pair. An overall attitude score is computed by summing the responses on each adjective pair. Before computing the overall score, the response categories must be coded. Usually the categories are assigned values from 1 to 7, where 1 is assigned to the unfavourable adjectival phrase and 7 is assigned to the favourable adjectival phrase. Thus, before assigning codes and summing, the researcher must be careful to reverse the individual scale items where necessary so that each attitude continuum ranges from unfavourable to favourable or vice versa.

Ratings on each of the bipolar adjective pairs are often used to provide a profile or image of the objects being investigated. This is achieved by plotting the mean ratings on each of the bipolar adjective pairs for each of the objects. Figure 6.5 shows an example of such profiling. In order to facilitate interpretation of the profile, all the favourable adjectival phrases are positioned on the same side. From this kind of plot, it is possible to obtain an overall impression of people's perceptions of the object.

In Figure 6.5, a comparison is made between two restaurants. Not only does the scale permit such comparisons to be taken in at a glance but it also allows us to see fairly readily where more in-depth research is required. The decor of 'our restaurant', for example, is perceived to be at or about the neutral point. Further research is needed to uncover how it might be improved to the taste of its clientele.

Old-fashioned Cheap

Friendly service Helpful staff Wide range of menus Inviting atmosphere Fast service Attractive decor Convenient opening hours

Old-fashioned Cheap

Friendly service Helpful staff Wide range of menus Inviting atmosphere Fast service Attractive decor Convenient opening hours

Modern Expensive Unfriendly service Unhelpful staff Limited range of menus Cold atmosphere Slow service Unattractive decor Inconvenient opening hours

Key. 1: Our restaurant

2: Competitor's restaurant -

FIGURE 6.5

Semantic differential profile

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