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semantic differential

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A device for measuring the affective or connotative meaning of words, also widely used for measuring attitudes towards other concepts and objects. It consists of a variable number of seven-point bipolar rating scales, such as good -- -- -- -- -- -- -- bad active -- -- -- -- -- -- -- passive strong -- -- -- -- -- -- -- weakon which respondents rate the items under investigation. According to factor analysis, there are three underlying dimensions of affective or connotative meaning, exemplified by the three core scales shown above, labelled evaluation, activity, and potency, respectively. Scores ranging from −3 at the negative end of each scale to +3 at the positive end are usually assigned. To illustrate how it works, research in the US has shown that average ratings of the word nurse tend to be towards the good, active, and weak poles, whereas the word policeman tends to be rated towards the good, active, and strong poles. The particular adjective pairs used depend on the items being evaluated: active versus passive could be included among the scales used to measure the activity dimension if the items being rated were political parties, for example, but this might be less appropriate if the items were types of food. The technique was developed by the US psychologist Charles E(gerton) Osgood (1916–91) and published in 1952 in the journal Psychological Bulletin, and it became popular with researchers after it was expounded in detail in the book The Measurement of Meaning (1957) by Osgood, his US colleague G(eorge) J(ohn) Suci (1925–1998), and the Canadian-born US psychologist Percy (Hyman) Tannenbaum (1927–2009). See also congruity theory. SD abbrev.

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