Florian Keusch, Ting Yan
Is satisficing responsible for response order effects in rating scale questions?

Survey Research Methods, 2018: 12, issue 3, pp. 259-270
ISSN: 1864-3361

Rating scales are used extensively in surveys. A rating scale can descend from the highest to the lowest point or from the positive to the negative pole. A rating scale can also start with the lowest point (or the negative pole) and ascend to the highest point (or the positive pole). Previous research has shown that the direction of the scale, i.e., the order of the response options, has an impact on responses, and that respondents are more likely to select response options close to the starting point of the scale, regardless of whether the scale starts with the lowest or the highest point. This paper advances the literature by examining empirically whether or not the response order effect in rating scale questions is driven by satisficing. Drawing on data from an experiment on five multi-item grids, we found that scale direction had a significant and extreme impact on response distributions. Although the effect of scale direction was stronger among speeders than non-speeders, the effect was observed across the board among those who were at a high risk of satisficing and those who were not.