Tag Archives: likert scales

Likert and Friday Fun combined

Well well well. I have finally found something that qualifies both as a Friday Fun post and as something relevant to choice modelling – more potential Chinese problems with Likert scales!

The number 4 is known to be considered unlucky in some more traditional parts of Chinese society. However, I never knew that the numbers 7 and particularly 9 can mean something else entirely in Cantonese…..as one of the commenters said, “flaccid” is particularly implied by one of these numbers, so you can already guess the nature of the warning and discussion.


So let’s warn you yet again – Likert scales are bad m’kayyyy! Trying to make cross-cultural comparisons in particular and the need to net out any cultural effects is totally unnecessary in most instances now we have Best-Worst Scaling Case 1.

Happiness isn’t quality of life if you’re old

The subject of happiness, particularly among older people, has come up (again) in the media. I reckon they trot out the latest survey results whenever there’s a slow news day. I think it’s no coincidence the newest stories have appeared in the slow month of August.

Anyway I shall keep this short as I’ll rant otherwise. Once again, neither happiness nor life satisfaction is the same as quality of life and we can argue til the cows come home as to which of the three (if any) is truly well-being.

First of all, if I can find the time to write up a follow-up to the paper I published on the mid 2000s survey of Bristolians I will show this:

Five year age bands showing mean levels (after rescaling) of self-rated happiness versus scored quality of life in Bristol

Five year age bands showing mean levels (after rescaling) of self-rated happiness versus scored quality of life in Bristol

The two track reasonably closely until retirement age. Then whilst happiness continues to rise, quality of life certainly does not. The wealth of other evidence on health, money, friends, etc from the survey suggests our QoL, the ICECAP-O instrument, is the better measure of overall well-being.

We are not the only ones to find this. A large US study pretty much concluded they didn’t know WTF older people were doing when they answered life satisfaction/happiness questions but they sure don’t answer them the same way that younger adults do. Older people use a different part of the numerical scale (typically a higher portion, all other things being equal). That’s rating scale bias and there is a huge and growing literature on it.

Stop asking these dumb questions. There are good alternatives.



Likert scales are also racist

OK first in a hopefully regular friday fun series….and when I run out of DCE-related fun (i.e. in a fortnight) I’ll post some other funny crap…..

Likert’s original Likert scale was a racist example against African Americans. (This is not funny haha, but funny WTF?!)

The full paper is here.

Actually it’s really a Guttman scale but it doesn’t change the fact Likert scales are BAD, mmm’kayyyy!

Apart from some medical contexts (like pain) you can usually replace a Likert attitudinal scale with Case 1 (object case) Best-Worst Scaling (BWS).