Ting Yan, Florian Keusch, Lirui He
The impact of question and scale characteristics on scale direction effect

Survey Practice, 2018: 11, issue 2,

Scale direction effects refer to the impact on survey responses of the direction in which a response scale is presented or read, holding other scale features constant. Scale direction tends to produce primacy effects. However, empirical research on scale direction effects turns up mixed evidence – scale direction effects are observed in some studies on some items, but not in other studies for other items. As a result, it is not clear under what circumstances scale direction effects can be expected. It is also unclear what questions are more prone to scale direction effects and what scale features induce or reduce scale direction effects. This paper advances the literature by examining empirically the impact of two question level characteristics (i.e., type of survey questions and location of questions in the questionnaire) and two scale features (i.e., type of response scales and the number of scale points) on scale direction effects. We found that scale direction effects are stronger for non-attitudinal items, earlier survey items, and items with longer scales. In addition, the moderating impact of question type, question location, and scale length on scale direction effects is more pronounced for items administered via Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing than in self-administration. These findings have important implications for designing response scales in surveys.