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What is Semantic Differential?

acquiescence

arnold on Oct 05, 2008

Semantic differential is a type of a rating scale designed to measure the connotative meaning of objects, events, and concepts. The respondent is asked to choose where his or her position lies, on a scale between two bipolar words, or a range of words or numbers ranging across a bipolar position (for example, `Excellent’, `Good’, Adequate’, `Poor’, `Inadequate’; or from 5 (powerful) down to 1 (weak). The development of this instrument provides an interesting insight into the border area between linguistics and psychology. Most adjectives can also be used as personality descriptors. (Information from Wikipedia.)

This is also known as the bipolar adjective pair and was primarily used to study the semantic meaning of psychological constructs (Osgood et al, 1957). The construct of interest was listed at the top followed by a pair of adjectives which should represent opposite poles of a continuum. Osgood et al determined that most of the adjectives could be grouped into one of three dimensions (evaluation, potency or activity) underlying the semantic meaning. Their method for analyzing and interpreting responses to these items is an instrument call semantic differential. This method is sensitive to response sets, which are the tendency of an examinee to respond a certain way to a particular item. For example, acquiescence is the tendency to agree with statement regardless of content. (All information taken from Crocker and Algina, 1986).

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